Mining Industry in the Philippines has been a controversial issue once again, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Gina Lopez advocates the total ban of mining for responsible and sustainable mining in the country.
Mining in the Philippines has been known early as year 1521. The Philippines is actually the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for copper, nickel, gold and chromite. This has been a home to the largest copper-gold deposit in the world. According to Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau the country has $840 billion worth untapped mineral wealth.
All regions, except NCR and ARMM allow mining operations. About 30 million hectares of land areas in the country is deemed as possible areas for metallic minerals. The labor of department statistics shows that the mining in the country has created 211,000 jobs in 2011 alone.
The total ban of mining rests on the fact that mining activities has a destructive effect on natural resource, like the destruction of the natural habitat of different animal species. The dumping of chemicals in the mining could also pollute the other areas near the mining sites.
On the other hand, individuals also have the duty to use natural resources responsibly. The advocates for responsible and sustainable mining challenge folks to balance man’s self-interest and nature’s stability.
However, those people who are in large mining corporations have firmly practiced their goals of achieving their self-interests forgetting the fact that these are the reasons why there is an imbalance in the biotic community.
Thus, the government should really take a stand on implementing its legal measures on mining to prevent destruction on mineral resources.
Below are the list of effects of mining industry in the Philippines.
- Mining has an effect on the quality of the air. Coal mines releases methane that contributes to environmental issues since it contains greenhouse gas.
- Some cooling plants may release these ozone-depleting substances yet the amount released is just very small.
- Heavy metals like sulfur dioxide is polluted into the air by unsafe smelter operations with insufficient safeguards.
- Gold mining industry is actually one of the most destructive industries in the world because of the toxins released into the air.
- Another side effect of mining are acid rain and smog.
- A total of 142 million tons of sulfur dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, every year because of smelting and that is 13% of total global emissions.
- When sulfide is oxidized through contact with air via mining, it forms sulfuric acid and when this is combined with trace elements, it has a negative impact on groundwater. This happens both surface and underground mines.
- Chemical deposits that are left over from explosives are usually toxic and it increase the salinity of mine water as well as contaminating it. Through the “in situ” mining groundwater can be directly contaminated, in which a solvent seeps into un-mined rock, leaching minerals.
- Toxins like cyanide and mercury are used in the extraction of minerals that can permanently pollute the water, making it difficult to the fishermen to find fish.
- Spills into the lakes and ocean also add toxic to heavy metals and sulfuric acid to the environment, where it can take years.
- Land impacts are immense in mining which involves moving large quantities of rock and in surface mining. Almost all of the mined ore of non-ferrous metals become waste.
- Mining activities might as well lead to erosion which is very dangerous for the land.
- This also leads to destruction of river banks and changes how the river flows, where it flows, what lives in it, etc.
- Toxins such as cyanide and by products like mercury which is used in the extraction of minerals can permanently pollute the land and people will no longer be able to farm in certain places.
- Open-pit mining also leaves behind large craters that can be seen from outer-space.
- Due to people digging in search of precious minerals, a lot of areas are pock marked by thousands of small holes.
- Deep sea mines are at risk in eliminating rare and potentially valuable organisms.
- Mining also destroys animal habitats and ecosystem.
- Those activity that surrounds the mine which includes explosions, transportation of goods, road construction, the movement of people, the sound made, etc are actually harmful to the ecosystem and will change the way animals have to live since they will have a new way to cope with the mine and live around it.
- In general, spills of deadly substances have a very negative effect on animals and ecosystem.
- Discharged toxins and tailing from the mines can disrupt and disturb the way animals live.
- By adding or taking out something from the animals’ everyday lives, mining can completely destroy the ecosystem.
- Loss of agricultural and livelihood.
- Due to huge environmental, social and cultural costs, this puts extreme stress on health, food security, displacement, and respiratory diseases.
- Mining companies who promised to provide scholarships and livelihood to the affected people are mere palliatives in comparison to the massive environmental destruction and are long-term negative heath impacts of unsustainable mining practices.
Mining is still considered as a hazardous industry, though it has its advantages yet the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages of its existence.
DENR Secretary Gina Lopez believes that the quality of life of the people is more important rather than the money they make. Although, her order would result to massive job loss and it could affect her confirmation at the Commission on Appointment (CA), she will still keep her stand and do her duty despite of all the criticisms she received.
On the other hand, President Rodrigo Duterte also said that he chose to appoint Lopez because she shares his stand on responsible mining and environmental conservation.
Duterte also stated that, the Filipino people own the mineral resources , however the current law does not provide for payment for these resources.
Moreover, mining contributes little to the economy, it is not a huge employment generator. The total contribution of mining is only 234,000 in year 2015 or 0.6% of total employment in the country.
Thus, the challenge on the current administration is to champion and institutionalize the genuine reforms in the mining sector.