Minerals benefit foreigners not Filipinos
MAJORITY of Philippine minerals are exported and mainly benefit foreign corporations, rations, research research group group IBON IBON said. said. While While ensuring ensuring environmentally environmentally safe safe and and responsible mining methods, the Duterte administration should also ban the exodus of the country’s raw minerals. These should instead be efficiently reserved for and utilized to support and develop the country’s key industries towards national industrialization, said the group.
According to IBON, the Philippines is one of the most mineral-rich countries yet the majority of its minerals are exported. The country ranks 3rd in gold, 4th in copper, 5th in nickel and 6th in chromite. But government data shows that in 2015, total exports of minerals were equivalent to Php127.3 billion, while gross production value was Php179.7 billion (US$1=P45.50). This means that 71% of total mineral production was exported in that year, said the group.
IBON noted that the Philippines primarily exports its minerals to countries in the Asian region. According to the World Bank World Integrated Trade Solution database, nearly 100% of the Philippines’ total world mineral exports (US$1.6 billion worth) went to the East Asia and Pacific in 2015. Among the top countries that the Philippines exported its minerals to were China (US$847.6 million), Japan (US$448.7 million) and Korea (US$263.37 million).
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These countries that largely consume and benefit from Philippine mineral exports are also home to the world’s leading steel-producing firms, observed IBON. Among the World Steel Association’s list of top steel producers in 2015, next to Arcelormittal, were Chinese companies Hesteel Group ranked 2nd, Baosteel 5th, Shagang Steel 6th and Ansteel group seventh. Japanese companies on the list were Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation ranked 3rd and JFE steel eighth. Meanwhile, Korean steel corporation, Posco, was ranked as the 4th top steel producer in the world.
IBON said that mining has low value-added when minerals are exported in a raw or semi-processed state. Though mineral processing in itself constitutes a quantitatively small share of the economy, its contribution across industrial, agriculture and service sectors can be qualitatively significant if used to develop the country’s industries.
Minerals like steel can be used extensively in construction, IBON said, while copper can be used in power infrastructure and electronic products. Minerals are also important in producing machinery that is used in manufacturing and agriculture. For instance, automotive production on average requires 40-60 mineral-based components such as iron, steel, aluminum, copper, zinc, titanium, platinum and gold. Meanwhile, computer chips and most electronic products on the average have 60 mineralderived elements.
IBON said that protecting the environment and communities from harmful and destructive large-scale mining practices of big corporations is an initial positive step. At the same time, the government should also ensure that the country’s mineral resources will be saved and prioritized to truly benefit the Filipino people over corporate mining interests, and towards genuine national development. Duterte should stick to
mines closure IBON also said that despite strong opposition from mining companies, the Duterte government should stand firm on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) head’s order on mines closure. The group also belied mining companies’ claims that large scale mining has brought development to the country.
President Duterte has expressed support for DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’ order to close down 23 mining firms and suspend five more due to grave violations against the environment. Ordered closed were Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation and Benguet Corporation and four other mining companies in Luzon, 10 in Vizayas and seven in Mindanao.
Lopez has also ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philipines (COMP), meanwhile, composed of the country’s mining firms, has questioned the closure and warned of the massive jobs and revenue losses that it will entail. Finance secretary and Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) co-chairperson Carlos Dominguez also cautioned that the DENR orders would cost affected local governments millions in foregone revenues.
IBON however refuted that large-scale mining has been beneficial to the economy. It said that for instance, while mineral exports hit a high US$3.4 billion in 2013, mining contributed a measly 0.7% to gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. The sector’s contribution grew to this level only from 0.5% after more than a decade of operations. The annual average share of mining revenues to total government revenues in 2009-2012 was only 1.18 percent, the group added. The contribution of the mining and quarrying sector to employment was also negligible at 0.7% of total employment.
IBON also noted the string of mining disasters since the enactment of the Philippine Mining Act in 1995. Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining has caused damaged dams, soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, fish kill and other damages to marine life, buried or damaged houses in tailings and flash floods, isolated villages, dust fallout and air pollution, massive evacuation and various illnesses. Moreover, said the group, more than 90% of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel.
Government should uphold the mining ban, IBON said, and be wary of opposition coming from certain members of the cabinet involved in the mining sector, which could derail efforts to advance the people’s interests.
The closure and suspension orders is a positive step for the protection of the Philippine environment and towards ensuring that the country’s natural resources benefit the Filipino people, the group added. Various groups are pushing for the resumption of the peace talks as these principles are represented in the negotiations’ social and economic reforms agenda.
Subanen indigenous people oppose (open-pit) mining activities by TVI Resource Development Inc., in Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur province in this undated photos. The mining firm also mined inside ancestral domain at Mount Canatuan in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)