Grim Reality Behind Mining InvestmentsPublished by MAC on 2005-10-06
Source: IBON Features Vol. XI No. 47 ()
Grim Reality Behind Mining Investments
IBON Features Vol. XI No. 47
October 6, 2005
As the Arroyo administration guns for gold in mining, the country is ultimately left with nothing but environmental destruction, social displacement and financial bleeding.
By Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo
IBON Features-- The Philippines is once again hosting a gathering of mining corporations this coming October 11 to 13. The Asia Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibition 2005 will be graced by no less than President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who will give the keynote address. As the Arroyo administration guns for gold in mining, the country is ultimately left with nothing but environmental destruction, social displacement and financial bleeding.
Investments vs. Costs
A modest estimate made by the World Bank in a study called "Philippine Environment Monitor 2004-Assessing Progress" says that the Philippines loses over $2 billion dollars annually due to environmental degradation. Yet the Arroyo government is doggedly pursuing foreign investments in one of the dirtiest industries ever-- mining.
The government reports that mining investments in January to September 2005 soared to $345 million, poured in by 23 mining firms led by Coral Bay (Palawan Nickel Project), Lafayette Philippines Inc. (Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project), Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (Didipio Copper-Gold Project), TVI Resources (Canatuan Gold Project), Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. (Far-Southeast Gold Project), Filmenera Resources (Masbate Gold Project) and Eagle Cement Corp. (Akle Cement Project).
The World Bank estimate only includes damage from water pollution, mismanagement of fishery resources, and air pollution in four urban centers. It also excludes social costs and the loss of quality of life.
The mining process has always been equated with environmental destruction-- deforestation, slope destabilization, soil erosion, desertification, water resource degradation, defertilization, crop damages, siltation, alteration of terrain and sea-bottom topography, increased water turbidity and air pollution.
Mining operations in the Philippines have damaged forests, agricultural lands, river systems and marine resources, displacing thousands of indigenous peoples and upland dwellers, peasants and fisherfolk.
With transnational corporations (TNCs) dominating the industry, the result has been plunder of the country's resources with only a pittance given to the government-- as these finite resources are exported, and the income and profits quickly repatriated to mining TNCs' home countries.
The people are then left to suffer the consequences of government's irresponsibility and the TNCs' greed. One example is the all too common pattern of mines closing down and companies leaving the destruction wrought by their operations.
The government, for instance, has identified some 20 abandoned sites in need of rehabilitation. Early this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced its plan to clean up seven abandoned mines, which will require P35 million. Ironically, the rationale behind the plan is still to attract mining investors.
Mine wastes and tailings pose the greatest threats, including siltation of irrigation canals, paddy fields and rivers, poisoning of water systems and the reduction of flora and fauna. Tailing spills, like what happened in Marcopper's mining site in Marinduque that killed the Boac River, are the costliest hazards, financially, ecologically and socially. Mining operations, which require clearing of acres of forests, also cause catastrophes such as landslides and flash floods. These cost the country roughly P15 billion annually, according to the World Bank. But the toll on human life and the anguish suffered by the people can never be quantified.
Making TNCs liable
Thus, the figures flaunted by the government, such as the $6-$7 billion potential investments in the next 10 years, the P57 billion annual tax revenues and $800 million exports are in reality canceled out by the economic, social and environmental costs of TNC mining operations in the country.
Instead of pursuing and supporting mining investors in the country, IBON Foundation, a member of Defend Patrimony, an alliance of groups opposed to large-scale TNC mining, urges government to hold mining companies liable for their environmental and social crimes.