LAST year, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), a London-based organization of companies and associations in the industry, published a report on the role of mining in national economies. The report ranked 183 countries according to the relative importance of mining to their respective economies, based on ICMM’s Mining Contributions Index–a combination of mining’s contribution to a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), export earnings and mineral rents. The Philippines was ranked 26th, behind Myanmar and ahead of Brazil. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was ranked first.
The contributions are more significant in certain regions: the Gross Regional Domestic Products (GRDP) tables of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) attribute to mining and quarrying, significant percentages in the gross value added to the economies of MIMAROPA (Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), 25.6 percent; CARAGA (Agusan del Norte and del Sur, Dinagat, and Surigao del Norte and del Sur), 14.2 percent; and Western Visayas (Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental), 12.5 percent.
Given that mining has significant impact, how does the industry ensure that it is operating responsibly?
ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Certification
In 2015, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order mandating that all holders of Mineral Agreements, and Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements, engaged in metallic operating secure the Geneva-based International Standards Organization’s ISO 14001 certification, which specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system.
Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez was once quoted as equating the order with responsible mining: “The ISO 14001 certification is just another way of saying responsible mining. It you’re responsible, then you have the highest standards.”
According to the DENR, IS0 14001 ensures that “appropriate measures are put in place to achieve minimal negative impacts of mining on the environment.” The certification touches on the following aspects: context of an organization, leadership, planning, support, operation, performance evaluation, and improvement.
Global Ferronickel Holdings President Atty. Dante Bravo described the process of securing the certification as “tedious and relatively difficult…particularly in terms of documentation and monitoring”, and credited everyone in their companies for their work in attaining ISO 14001.
Care for communities
Another measure for miners is their care for the communities they operate in.
The major miners in the Philippines run programs for the benefit of their nearby communities. These include initiatives that deal with education, livelihood, and health.
Nickel Asia complements the Philippine Mining Law-mandated Social Development Management Program assistance, with their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, spending 178.6 million in 2016. Its CSR focus areas include Education, Health, Livelihood and Infrastructure. Company-wide last year, Nickel Asia supported 4,154 scholars; its livelihood programs had over 2500 beneficiaries; and it provided hospitalization for 78,000 patients.
The company also reported that its employee count from local communities across its mines numbered close to 3000.
An area of concern to the public—and to miners themselves—is sustainability.
Across its sites in Surigao and their surrounding environs, Global Ferronickel has been installing mitigating structures to capture run-offs, reforesting, and investing in slope stability and coastal protection.
At Nickel Asia, their Annual Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (AEPEP) covers the rehabilitation of mine-disturbed areas, reforestation, construction and maintenance of environmental facilities, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, air and water quality monitoring, and the preservation of downstream water quality. In 2016, they reported spending nearly P364-million for their AEPEP.
Asked to describe responsible mining, Atty. Bravo said that it is “an operation that is environmentally sustainable, reasonably safe, and commercially and technically viable.” He further added that these operations “should have a positive impact on the quality of life of nearby residents.”