More science needed in mining controversy

>> Friday, May 19, 2017


The rejection of the appointment of Regina Lopez as Environment Secretary, 10 months into her term in office by the Commission on Appointments even as President Rodrigo Duterte supported her, has highlighted once again the mining controversy. Lopez was the second member of Duterte's cabinet dismissed by Congress.
Lopez angered the mining sector after ordering in February closure of more than half the country's mines and cancellation of dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources.
She also banned open-pit mining owing to many factors such as safety issues and stakeholder concerns, fraught with opposition from environmental nongovernment organizations and pressure groups.
In the Cordillera and other parts of the country, mining  is an industry where thousands of families obtain their income, its proponents say.
These form part of estimated 1.2 million engaged in mining, given undocumented illegal mining taking place in many areas.
Going against mining is politically difficult, as Lopez found out. Even environmentalists fear backlash and are careful not to campaign against the sector, while some progressive groups opt to support what they call “pro-people mining” to improve welfare of those engaged in the industry — not to suppress it.
Mining advocates say the industry provides not only income and livelihood but building materials for homes, from cement (that is made from minerals), to reinforced bar and galvanized iron sheets.
A country’s mineral wealth is state property and forms part of the national patrimony that can only be utilized by locals, with the benefits equitably shared and environmental and social safeguards put in place by law, according to the 1987 Constitution.
By according to cause oriented groups, money produced from the industry are just being brought out the country by “owners.” 
Anti-mining advocates say the country is not getting that much taxes or fees for the extractive industry which had caused so much environmental damage and suffering to rural folks who have lost their livelihood.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is in charge of minerals development, through the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau.
Mine firms say they have obtained necessary permits and clearances do so after hurdling years of impact assessments, stakeholder surveys and meetings.
During operations, they say they are subjected to regular audits on their safety and environmental standards, and to check whether the minerals taken out are properly valued so the people, both immediate neighbors and the rest of the country, obtain their just share.
But then, according to Lopez, the DENR has been fraught with corruption on issuance of permits with some of its officials demanding P200 to 300 thousand for a signature.
Following her audit, mining companies questioned the process after Lopez ordered their closure. They said technical aspects were not sufficiently explained to the public.
It is time for more science and less politics -- for more dialogue and less speeches on issues based on facts that need discussion, rather than avoiding or spinning them.
The issue is far from over. Extractive industries have always been controversial in this country that has suffered serious mining disasters.
The mining industry says it is one of the nation’s major employers and revenue earners. They say relying completely on imported minerals is certain to increase cost of producing many items from electronic components to roads and houses.
On the other hand, environment warriors such as Gina Lopez also have valid concerns about the damage, often irreversible, that mining inflicts on the environment and even on public health.
Open pit mines in particular are an ugly sight. Several of the major mining disasters in this country and elsewhere in the world occurred at sites operated by big mining firms. 

Mining firms must persuade the government and the public that there is such a thing as responsible mining, and that it is possible to restore the environment once extraction activities are over – otherwise the controversy won’t go away, even if Gina Lopez is out as DENR Secretary.  


  © Blogger templates Palm by 2008

Back to TOP  

Web Statistics