Mining: Not good for Philippine development
Posted by butalidnl on 25 May 2010
Mining is not good for the Philippines. It actually retards development, and should not have any part in a Philippine development plan. Here’s why:
In the first place, the Philippines is full. Practically all the land in the country has been claimed, or lived on, and there is absolutely no way that you can decide to dig up somewhere without anyone being displaced. On an economic level, you have to weigh the advantages of keeping the present occupants where they are – and they continue their activities (e.g. farming, fishing, preserving the forest as watershed etc) – and compare this with the advantages of having a mine there. For many government officials, they would choose the mine, since they can easily extract revenues from a mine (through taxes), while not so readily from farms. But from the view of the overall economy, the mine is a short-term advantage compared to the longer term advantage of having farms etc. on the same piece of land.
Add to that the fact that it really is an either/or choice these days between agriculture and mining; since mining is most preferably done by the strip mining method, where they simply strip the topsoil and get at the minerals underneath. They don’t really build tunnels these days.
Mines are also often located near the sources of rivers. The forests there are watershed areas for areas downstream. True, there is no immediate tax benefit from watersheds – but if these are polluted, downstream areas will have a problem getting enough water for crops and for drinking, etc.
The Philippines is a particularly bad place to mine because of two things: the mines are in mountainous places, and the monsoon and typhoons that hit the country. This is because when a mine operates, it extracts huge amounts of rock and crushes them, then the mineral is extracted, and the rest of the crushed rock is dumped somewhere. This crushed rock can’t stay still, because of the steep gradient and the heavy rains. It then leaks out unto the nearest river and pollutes everything downstream. This crushed rock has a lot of heavy metals in them, which causes all kinds of problems with livestock and people. The 1996 disaster in Marinduque is a good example of what could happen: when 3 million tons of “tailings” (the crushed rock leftovers) escaped into the river and sea, resulting in heavy metal poisoning of many people in the area, and ruining large tracks of coral and seagrass.
Will it be Noticed?
The Philippines’ mining output is small. It will not affect the world supply of essential minerals. We could simply cut off production from mines in the Philippines without any shortage or even price hike resulting from it. So, in this sense, it should be easy to simply stop mining altogether in the Philippines.
How about mining in other third world countries? Well, I guess this depends on the conditions in those countries. Chile’s copper mines are in uninhabited dry regions – so the tailings problem is rather non-existent. And there are mines in developed countries, of which many would be alright. But the thing is, the world is awash with minerals of all types, and it will not do too much harm to have lesser supplies of many of them. The price for these minerals may go up in the process; but this should be good in that it will encourage more recycling and more efficient use of these minerals.