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Mining’ is not a four-letter word

Mining’ is not a four-letter word"This country does not have many options when it comes to ramping up GDP growth. The mining industry is one of its few options."

 

No, “mining” is not a four-letter word – the last time I did some counting, “mining” was made up of six letters.

Mining started to lose two of its letters, going from six letters to four letters, when the late Regina “Gina” Lopez - may she rest in peace - began her environmentalist campaign and targeted the mining industry as the principal despoiler of the environment. Newly elected Rodrigo Duterte, who during the [residential campaign had advocated greater protection of the environment, decided to buy into Ms. Lopez’s advocacy and appointed her as his first DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) head.

The new Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources lost no time putting her all mining-is-bad philosophy into practice. During her first weeks in office, Gina Lopez cancelled the certificate of authority to operate some mining companies under suspicion and issued show-cause orders to others. Then she ordered a general audit of the entire Philippine mining industry.

The mining industry knew Gina Lopez from her private-sector day; it knew what to expect from the female scion of the Lopez family. What the mining companies did not expect - and what flabbergasted the mining companies - was President Duterte’s choice of Gina Lopez to head DENR. Given her hardline views on the mining industry, the mining companies felt that Ms. Lopez’s appointment was akin to placing a wolf inside the chicken house. The Philippine mining community was stunned, and it still is stunned.

To be sure, Secretary Lopez gave the seal of approval to a number of companies that have been stalwarts of the mining industry and have, over the decades, been among the darlings of the Philippine stock market - the likes of industry veterans Benguet Consolidated Mining Co. and Philex Mining Co. But she was next to heartless with other companies of lower age and less stature. Most of these companies are still under suspension or undergoing scrutiny of the MGB (Mines and Geosciences, Bureau), the DENR-component agency that directly supervises the mining industry. 

Today the Philippine mining industry is in a state of uncertainty as it awaits the results of the second of the two industry audits ordered by Gina Lopez and, subsequently, by her successor as Secretary, Roy Cimatu.

The impression that an objective observer gets is that the development and growth of this country’s mining industry is not a priority of the present administration and that DENR and MGB are in no rush to complete and announce the results of the already-much-delayed second audit of the industry.

The Philippine mining industry should be out there in the world marketplace, selling competitive products, attracting investments and installing improved technology. Instead it is on hold, awaiting the results of an audit that should have completed before the start of the pandemic.

Nature endowed the Philippines with abundant mineral resources, and this country is a leading world producer of gold, silver, copper, nickel, chromite, and iron. The Philippines is recognized as a major player in the world markets for these products. Numerous countries that have achieved economic development and prosperity -- the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Chile, to name a few - got to where they are partly because of their exports of minerals.

The mining industry used to account for a significant portion of Philippine GDP (Gross Domestic Product), generating jobs and government revenue in addition to export income. With the present administration’s antipathetic attitude toward the industry, that is no longer true.

While mining is not a four-letter word, there undoubtedly are mining companies that have behaved in four-letter fashion. Gina Lopez knew who those companies were and she, rightly, threw the regulatory book at them. Every industry has its scoundrels, but it is very probably correct to say that the majority of companies have been engaged in responsible mining.

Truth to tell, this country does not have many options when it comes to ramping up GDP growth. The mining industry is one of its few options. Let the present administration come out - finally - with a firm policy on the Philippine mining industry so that the industry will be able to once again make its full contribution to this country’s economic development.

Topics: "mining" , Regina “Gina” Lopez , Rodrigo Duterte , Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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