Data from the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), shows the country stands to lose about $30 billion in mining sector investments over the next five to 10 years due to looming uncertainties over the Duterte Administration’s policy direction for the mineral sector.
Among the major mining projects mentioned as bound to be to be affected by the ban are Sagitarius Mines Inc.’s Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato ($5.9 billion), Philex Mining Corp.’s Silangan project in Surigao del Norte ($2 billion), Nationwide Development Corporation’s Kingking copper-gold project ($2 billion), Asiaticus in Davao Oriental ($2 billion), Lepanto Mining Corp.’s Far Southeast project in Benguet ($2 billion), and Intex Resources development in Mindoro ($2.5 billion).
By removing the potential output of these and other prospective mines, the government also stands to lose about $2-billion worth of incremental export receipts, and about $50 million in annual revenue generation from increased production and exports of minerals and metals may not also be realized, the COMP said.
Other mining projects expected to infuse investments within the next decade include Philsaga Mining in Masbate ($2.0), San Miguel Corp.’s Philnico project in Surigao del Sur ($2.0), TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc.’s Balabag project in Zamboanga del Sure ($250 million), Global Ferronickel project in Palawan ($250 million), and Benguet Corp.’s Balatok project in Benguet ($350 million).
The mining group also said the economic impact of the mining industry in the countryside cannot be ignored, as more than 3 million jobs and employment would be expected to be generated in three five years’ time, with more in indirect and induced employment from the creation of related businesses and industries in rural areas and economic growth centers.
Aquino EO blamed
Over the last five years, investments in mining in the Philippines have steadily declined as big-ticket projects remained in limbo because of the Aquino Administration’s mining policy, COMP said.
COMP attributed the huge decline in mining investments to President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s issuance of Executive Order 79, which forbade the signing of new mineral agreements until a new mining revenue sharing scheme could be legislated, something which has not yet been accomplished.
In 2015 alone, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said that the total mining investments in the Philippines reached $924.94 million, 22.5 percent lower than the total investments of $1.193 billion in 2014.
The majority of 2015’s investments came from the continuing expansion of four operating mining projects, and one new mining project in the construction stage, the MGB added.
The projects include Philex Mining Corp.’s Sto. Tomas Copper Project in Tuba, Benguet worth $44.98 million; Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp’s Surigao Sumitomo HPAL Project in Claver, Surigao del Norte worth $180 million; CTP Construction and Mining Corporation’s SIRC Nickel Project in Claver, Surigao del Norte worth $47.30 million; and FCF Minerals Corp’s Runruno Gold Project in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya worth $41.40 million.
Lopez causing concerns
The declining trend in the mineral development sector along with environmental issues confronting the mining industry has caused concern among stakeholders.
ABS-CBN Foundation chairperson Gina Lopez presented a stark choice to the mining industry and the country at large ahead of her takeover as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR): Boost the mining industry or protect the environment? Filipinos must decide, Lopez said.
For Lopez, a staunch anti-mining advocate, it is a simple choice between foreign investors and Filipino people who will benefit more from the country’s natural resources.
“Doesn’t matter if it is large-scale or small-scale, but if you kill the environment, is it worth it?” the incoming DENR chief said during a television interview Tuesday evening.
Lopez also said that Philippine economic growth “should not be built on the suffering of the people,” particularly the marginalized farmers and fisherfolk directly affected by mining operations.
“I am absolutely anti-mining. I don’t like suffering,” Lopez said. “At the end of the day, you need to make a choice. If you take one, you’ll kill the other. Is the gold more important than the food we eat?”
Call for responsible mining
Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines-Mining Engineering Society expressed support for the principles of responsible mining, recognizing the role of mineral extraction in achieving sustainable and progressive development in the country.
“It is the mission of the UP miners to aid in the advancement of the mining profession through efforts that responsibly harness the God-given wonders of nature in a manner most beneficial to all Filipinos. We are especially cognizant of our responsibilities – being ‘Iskolars ng Bayan’ – to the public who helped educate us,” the group said in a statement.
UP-MES also condemned the continued misinformation and false generalizations about mining and those who spread them, saying that UP-trained students only pursue facts and truth in service to the Filipino people.
“As students of mining engineering, we condemn irresponsible mining as it destroys the
environment and the communities in which it is practiced,” the group said.
In a separate statement on Thursday, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines reiterated its commitment to a collective effort of pushing for inclusive growth as President Rodrigo Duterte took his oath of office.
“Building a strong country does not rest on one man alone. It is a collective effort of pushing for inclusive growth within the bounds of the law, honoring legitimate transactions, and implementing transparency in all activities that affects the lives of the people,” COMP said.
The COMP also vowed to work for the national interest by fulfilling its members’ obligations as prescribed by law by promoting the development of rural and indigenous communities, and by complementing the delivery of government social services in education, health, livelihood and infrastructure.
The Chamber also said that it is committed to continue investing in human development and environmental protection through strengthened environmental protection and enhancement programs.
“We will continue to adhere to our core values of discipline, accountability, and integrity in all that we do. And we shall expect no less from our leaders,” said May Anne Cacdac, communications manager of COMP.
The Chamber earlier stressed the need for a DENR Secretary who has a solid background in the intricacies of natural resources management, as well as being able to balance economic growth and the needs of the people with that of environmental protection, the protection of indigenous communities, and Filipino society at large.
COMP is an organization of large mining corporations, processing firms, exploration companies, service, and equipment establishments and other allied industries.