Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Three Cross Nails of Mining
Anawim, my 18-year old daughter, and I were watching our favorite soap over ABS-CBN Channel 2 when the TV ad of Philex Mining Corporation appeared on the screen. She looked at me teasingly and said, “See, Tatay, There’s Life in Mining.” Said mining corporation recently launched an advertising series on what they call as “responsible mining” dubbed – you’ve guess it right – “There is Life in Mining”. In a news report, Denis Lucindo, vice president for business development of Philex Mining, stressed the importance of mining in one’s life, “A lot has been said about mining with diverse opinions regarding the industry and its impact on the country.” According to Victor Francisco, vice president for environment and community relations of the company further said, “Responsible mining is the kind that values the environment, the community, the safety and welfare of the people involved in the mining projects. It adheres to the law and is intent on giving back to the host community and the environment.” But is there really responsible mining in the Philippines, really?
Here in Occidental Mindoro, one of the towns that will be hit best by the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex Mining Corporation is Sta. Cruz (where the company’s plant is targeted to be constructed in Brgy. Pinagturilan) and today, September 14, is the parish’s feast day. Yap, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) and today we Catholics honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world.
Before going further, happy fiesta to people of Sta. Cruz!
The impact of mining operation in the Philippines is three-pronged like nails in the cross and the “There’s Life in Mining” ads over ABS-CBN failed to expound on these:
Nail one. Economic benefits (or should I say “life”) are raked by mining corporations. Consider that 100% foreign ownership of mining projects are allowed in the Mining Act of 1995 allowing foreign company to have concession area of up to 81,000 has. on shore and 324,000 has of shore. Philex Mining may not be a foreign corporation but I am more referring here to foreign companies such as Intex and Placerdome. This includes 100% repatriation of profit, a five-year tax holiday later to be extended to eight and deferred payment are allowed until all cost are recovered by the mining company. They also have the enjoyment of easement rights and other auxiliary rights in the mining concessions. Mining lease for 25 years is allowed extendable to another 25 years and losses can be carried forward against income tax, among others. On the other hand, affected areas and communities remain in the quicksand of impoverishment.
Nail two. The impact of mining is irreversible and places the environment at risk even increases the vulnerabilities of people and communities. Philippines is one of the 18 megadiverse countries in the world. Majority of plants and animals species are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. The country’s species are among the world’s 10 in terms of endemism. Unfortunately for us, mining is being done in key biodiverse areas like here in Mindoro and Palawan. A study commissioned by the European Union in 2005, “showed that legal and illegal mining operations posed serious threats to forest and local rivers because of forest clearing and release of toxins.” It was also indicated that many of these concerns stem from the failure of many small and large-scale mining companies to adhere to globally defined standards of “responsible mining” if ever there exist of such a word.
Nail three. People still pay the cost of externalities through taxpayer’s money when among other things our government has to respond to disasters induced by mining, consider the Rapu-Rapu and Marinduque disasters.
These “cross nails” are not originally from me but from one of the speeches of Mario Ebite Maderazo of the Philippine Misereor Partnership (PMP) Inc I just read from the PMP Newsletter. The partnership supports the struggle of affected communities in the context of large-scale mining operations in various parts of the country.
All I can add is this : The cross of Jesus Christ must be our constant source of inspiration against mining and other environmental threats because it is also the burning focal point of our renewal as His disciples.
And Anawim already knows that, I am sure…
(Photo from jesuit.org)