MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Communities, Lgus Benefit Least From Int'l Mining Investments - Researcher

Published by MAC on 2007-03-24
Source: MindaNews

Communities, LGUs benefit least from int'l mining investments - researcher

by Walter I. Balane / MindaNews

24th March 2007

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / March 23) - Communities and local governments where foreign mining companies operate received the least benefit in a "multi-level" flow of returns from the industry, an international researcher said.

Andy Whitmore, research and communication officer of the United Kingdom-based human rights group PIPLinks, said that the little benefit they derived, if at all, would come at a great price in facing the costs and problems attendant to mining operations.

Environmental risks and displacement of indigenous peoples were usually among these costs, he said in a briefing Thursday on Global Mining to researchers at the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue Thursday.

He said much of the wealth derived from mining was always flowed back to home countries of these companies, and with some going to the Philippine national government. Little benefit remained in the area of operation.

Mining investments would not spell out the negative effects, but often communities would be fully informed only of the benefits, not the costs, Whitmore said. Employment opportunities made available in the community were usually the factors that make these investments appear attractive to the communities.

Whitmore said that the international mining industry could only come up with "best practices" so far, not concrete strategies yet to address calls for sustainable mining.

He said these were the reasons why the PIPLinks has pushed for reforms in the Philippine mining industry following a group Philippine fact finding mission last year. The group submitted the recommendations to the Philippine government in January this year was and still awaiting official response.

PIPLinks has pushed for the separation of regulatory and permit granting functions from the promotion of mining in the international market, currently all under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

According to its website, PIPLinks works to uphold and promote the collective and individual human rights of indigenous peoples and other land-based communities.

Other recommendations was to ensure that government would fund a separate research and information arm in a proposed restructured DENR that would provide local authorities and communities with enough information to support making informed decisions.

Unfortunately, Whitmore said, "some community leaders are least empowered and can easily be convinced by mining companies luring them to support investments in their areas". He said thus far, it was at the provincial level where some signs of more informed deliberations on mining investments were illustrated in the Philippines.

Whitmore called on the government to reform the mining industry, including the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act.

Whitmore said the stock exchanges in London, Sydney, and Toronto were among the largest origins of publicly-sourced money invested in mining but said the Philippines was "least visible from the radars of the world's biggest mining firms even if the government has promoted its mining potentials".

He cited perception on the country's political instability and corruption in governance and the dent made by local protests to foreign mining firms operations as contributory to that.


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