Contrary to claims that closing down mining operations will worsen poverty, research group IBON said that large-scale mining activities impact heavily on marginalized sectors and intensify poverty. The group also said that the mining sector’s export-oriented character further deprives communities by taking away potential resources for local development.
The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said that the crackdown on mining would lead to ‘expansive poverty’ and hurt economic growth. This was in response to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) head Regina Lopez’s recent orders to close and suspend some mining operations and cancel 75 mining contracts.
According to a study by IBON, however, mineral extraction and production often incur significant social and environmental costs which in fact fall disproportionately on the poor. In 2009, mining had the highest poverty incidence among industry groups at 48.71%. This was the highest poverty incidence since 1988, even surpassing the agriculture sector, which has historically topped poverty incidence across industries.
Among the biggest mining operations in the country are the Taganito Mining Corp in Surigao; Nickel Asia in Eastern Samar; Sagittarius Mines Incorporated in South Cotabato, Filminera Resources Corp. in Masbate and TVI Pacific Inc in Zamboanga del Sur. Yet, IBON noted that official 2015 poverty statistics show that regions hosting these mining activities are the poorest, next only to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Poverty incidence among individuals in Caraga (Region XIII) is the second highest in the country at 39.1 percent. The Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) posted the third highest poverty incidence at 38.7% followed by Soccsksargen (Region XII) at 37.3%, Bicol (Region V) at 36.0% and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) at 33.9 percent.
Mining industry statistics also indicate that most of Philippine mineral production goes to exports, IBON observed. Total production value in mining in 2015, for instance, was at Php179.7 billion. Meanwhile, the amount of total exports of minerals and mineral products was at Php131 billion in the same year, or 73% of total production value. The exodus of minerals from the country leaves very little or nothing for local industry to benefit from. This means a lack of raw materials for potential industries such as steel, cement, rubber, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical.
IBON said that for allowing the extraction and export of most of the country’s mineral wealth while poverty remains stark in regions with mining activities, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed. The group said that government should not heed the mounting pro-big-business mining hype and instead focus on saving and utilizing what is left of the country’s resources to genuinely benefit the nation, especially the poorest regions.