MAC: Mines and Communities

Prometheus Bound: Towards a People's Mining Policy

Published by MAC on 2008-10-07
Source: Clemente Bautista jr, Manila Times (2008-09-25)

The Philippines harbors among the world's richest deposits of copper, nickel, chrome, zinc, gold and silver. However, these mineral resources are rapidly being depleted due to largescale extraction by foreign corporations. This has left our ecology devastated and our citizens robbed of their livelihoods and future.

This unfolding tragedy should not be the case with mining. We believe that mining and a developed minerals industry plays a significant role in the attainment of a progressive, independent and self-reliant economy. It should be developed to support a self-reliant and progressive domestic economy that seeks a healthy balance between agriculture and industrialization to break the cycle of underdevelopment.

But the Philippine local mining industry remains an export oriented and import dependent industry. It caters not to domestic needs but to the demand of the international market for minerals as raw materials. It is mainly extractive with no plans to add substantial value through downstream processing, lacking integration with other basic industrial needs of our country. These are the reasons why our people don't receive the maximum benefits from the mining industry despite the high level of mineral production in our country. Instead, only a few foreign transnational firms and a handful of the local elite dominate the industry and reap its benefits.

In response to this situation, the Defend Patrimony alliance, composed of environmental advocates, scientists, Church people, national minority groups and other sectors have developed a framework document to reorient the Philippine mining industry towards the road to genuine national industrialization and development.

Entitled the "People's Mining Policy," this document is continually being circulated for education and consultation among different societal sectors. Among its main principles are:

•A nationalized mineral industry plays an essential role in establishing a progressive, independent and self-reliant economy.

•With a reliable base of minerals vital to industrialization, the Philippines can achieve genuine development by wisely utilizing these resources as part of an alternative program for development. Foreign mining investments must be rigorously screened and strictly regulated. Capital accumulation and reinvestment within the country must be encouraged over profit repatriation by foreign companies. Building local downstream industries to process our mineral resources should also be prioritized to provide products that we can use to build further other domestic industries.

•Mineral production and development should help in modernizing agriculture within the framework of genuine agrarian reform.

•The mining industry should enhance the nation's capacity to achieve food security and self-sufficiency. The right quantities of minerals should be supplied in order to ensure the production of farm machineries, tools and infrastructure materials needed to increase efficiency in farming as well as reduce the strain on human labor. Prime agricultural lands and areas specified for food production must not be classified as mineral lands. Off-site effects of mining must not have disadvantageous effects on downstream areas.

•Mining development shall be programmed in accordance with the availability of resources, without sacrificing the capability and well being of the people.

•The level of mineral extraction and production should be based on the level of industrialization we wish to achieve, the needs of the agriculture sector and the production of consumer goods. It should also consider the level of our technological development, the availability of mineral reserves and its impact on the environment.

•Mining operations should be done only after democratic consultation and with the consent of the people in mining-affected communities and other stakeholders. The rights of indigenous peoples to selfdetermination and ancestral domain must be recognized. Job security, living wages, working benefits and favorable and safe working condition for mine workers must always be ensured for both state and privately-owned mining corporations.

•Role of research and development in advancing the mining industry.

•Research and development must focus on harnessing a more economically efficient and less environmentally destructive minerals industry. Advanced technologies from other countries that are proven to be appropriate to local conditions may be adopted. Recycling programs and substitution in the use of minerals must be incorporated in the overall plan of mining development. Reduction of mine waste and pollution and mining rehabilitation techniques must be among the focal points of research.

•Mining operations and development must at all times guarantee environmental protection and safety

•Mining will be done only after undergoing careful analysis and evaluation as to whether it is the best option for an area. At all stages of mining, environmental protection and development shall be guaranteed. Mining in high environmentally critical areas such as small island ecosystems, primary forests and watersheds shall be banned. The dumping of mine wastes and tailings in rivers, lakes and seas must be prohibited.

Mr. Clemente Bautista Jr., a founding member of AGHAM, is also the coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), a national network of environmental organizations, NGOs, and people's formations.

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