If you cook your dinner in a stainless steel pot or pan, have a computer for your e-mail and research or wear a watch, the chances are that you have nickel helping you along. It’s a very valuable and important metal, it’s in most of the things we use daily and the world is hungry for it.
So hungry that the global mining companies in collusion with locals in developing countries are gouging the earth, blasting mountains, digging huge holes, tunneling into the earth and criminally polluting rivers, cutting forests and creating environmental havoc in the stampede of greed. It’s likely also that the nickel in your appliances and kitchen ware, computer or watch comes from the Philippines.
The Philippines where one third of the people numbering over 100 million are living below the poverty line has vast reserves of mineral wealth but they benefit little or not at all. The mining of the precious metals, gold, silver, chromium, copper, nickel is reaping billions of pesos mostly for the wealthy.
Those who benefit are the large scale multinational mining companies and investors from Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, the USA and China. They do with the help of the ruling industrial families. They make up one percent of the population but control or own up to 70 percent of the national wealth. Some of that comes from the earth and the land of the tribal indigenous people and has caused conflict throughout the nation.
Such global exploitation is not only confined to the Philippines but is similar in most developed countries where the ruling oligarchy is part of the incredible and large scale theft operation. In Nigeria the oil wealth is disappearing by the billions of dollars.
The exploitation of the Filipinos and their natural resources is made possible by the rich Filipino elite who controls the Philippine Congress. They passed the 1995 mining law that benefits the Philippine mining interests, in cahoots with the multinational mining corporations. They bring little benefit to the country. The International Monetary Fund made a study in 2012 showing that the mining industry reaps vast profits but contributes a fraction in taxes.
The law gives huge tax holidays to mining corporations and allows them to import machinery tax free and other exemptions. The tax rate is one of the lowest in the world, around 2% to 3% percent of net earnings. In Australia it is close to 35 percent.
Environmentalists protested and campaigned against the law and the scale of destruction and damage to the environment and to the loss of ancestral lands and the killing of human rights advocates. Even priests and pastors and church workers have been assassinated for giving their lives to protect the indigenous people and their ancestral lands and traditions. The protests still go on.
In Santa Cruz, Zambales, a successful campaign led by Benito E. Molino, a medical doctor, and other environmentalists won a victory last July against nickel mining companies in Santa Cruz when the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) suspended their mining operating permits because of their destructive mining practices and environmental damage.
The companies are enraged and are striking back by paying people to campaign against the good doctor and his supporters. Some mining managers around the country have divided communities turning the people against each other so that the mining company can continue their destructive practice. “It’s easy to get someone killed in some of these countries. Decapitate the leader of the movement and then buy off everyone else—that’s standard procedure,” Said Phil Robertson, Asian Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch.
In Mindanao Italian Catholic priest Faustino Tentorio of the PIME missionaries was shot dead by assassins for his support of the people of the Manobo tribe who are struggling to save their ancestral lands and forests from mining interests.
As many as fifty people have been killed for taking a stand against environmental exploitation and advocating for a new mining law in the Philippines. That new law will promote safe and responsible small scale mining. The large scale mining operations can remove half a mountain and its forests, pollute its rivers and in a decade and leave a pit half a kilometer deep.
President Aquino responded to the mounting protests and outrage over the mining issue with an executive order in 2012 that excluded certain areas from mining. The Executive Order also asserted national authority over local laws. Several governors and local officials who are against large scale mining protested. This favored the powerful mining corporations who have well paid lawyers who can overturn local ordinances that ban large scale mining so as to protect the environment.
That’s something that we all can do in our own small way. We can all be advocates for a healthy planet, we can campaign over the social media, march for a free countryside, help by planting flowers or trees, speaking out to save a pond or a tree from being cut down, recycling our waste.
Small actions together make one great powerful action. Change for the better is made up of millions of small acts of preservation and love of life and creation. We will preserve and enhance life, and give us greater meaning to our lives, existence and purpose on this troubled planet.