May 15, 2018 (9:10 AM)

7 min read

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Photo from http://tvird.com.ph/

Grandmothers are fond of telling myths, often to scare grandchildren to stop playing with Balete trees or a huge lump of soil that came out of nowhere. But there is another myth involving trees your grandmother never told you.

Is responsible mining really just a myth? A lot of Filipinos have strong standpoints about mining, most of these are disapproving and negative.

Often shaped by what we see in media – the dreadful conditions of the Philippine forests, floods caused by unrehabilitated mining sites, and communities being displaced without any regard for their properties and livelihood. The public perception towards mining watered down positivity.

Even the current President Rodrigo Duterte stood firmly against mining, threatening mining companies that unless they will restore and rehabilitate exploited areas, he will “tax them to death” and use these taxes as funds to help affected communities.

On the same hand, Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez also showed strong disapproval of mining even at the onset of her short term, telling potential mining investors to go away if they were only to abuse Philippines’s pristine forests and natural resources.

All this, rallies of environmentalists, and pleas of abandoned indigenous people are what we make of mining in the Philippines.

For most Filipinos, this is the side of mining they know of – destructive and harmful. The existence of responsible mining geared towards development and socioeconomic well-being continues to be a myth.

Understanding responsible mining

Mining is, among many, an issue that continues to divide the people. On the majority side of that divide are people who sees mining as damaging and has irreversible consequences. This acknowledgement of mining’s threats to the environment, alongside with the closure of mining ventures by Gina Lopez, the call for mining companies to start practicing responsible mining has become louder.

What really is responsible mining? It is composed of three elements – environmental protection, economic growth, and social equity. With one of these elements missing, consider your company next on the hit list.

Responsible mining is enshrined in the Philippine law. According to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, “It shall be the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of government and the private sector in order to enhance national growth in a way that effectively safeguards the environment and protect the rights of affected communities.”

Responsible mining plays an important role in the society. It can generate jobs and can help in the country’s economic crisis. In addition, foreign investors continue to capitalize in the Philippines’ mining industry and with that, this industry will continue to provide economic benefit for the Philippines.

Why is responsible mining necessary?

In a keynote speech about mining delivered by Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, he said that, the question then is not whether we should mine or not, but how do we mine responsibly.

Mining responsibly is a matter of choice, unfortunately, not many companies choose this path. In the first place, what makes responsible mining responsible is not only the sole adherence to law but also the acknowledgement that there is a heavier accountability towards the repercussions this has caused the environment and the people.

Responsible mining is significant in making sure that restoration and reforestation takes place. Rehabilitation of these forests begins a domino effect that almost hits all sectors. With scenic forests and clean beaches comes the influx of more tourists and more investors. This can also mean unpolluted residences for those living near mining areas. In addition, since mining operations are always conducted in secluded barangays/areas in the country, there is more possibility for the creation of farm-to-market roads and the supply of electricity. New technologies and advancements can also be taught and shared to the people. All this proves to be beneficial to the public.

Moreover, since not all mining areas have unlimited deposits, there may come a point where mining operations may shut down due to exhausted resources. Responsible mining is crucial in guaranteeing all affected stakeholders – most especially the people – that with a reconditioned ecosystem, they can still go back to what they consider as their homes but this time, with new know-hows on more advanced living.

Mining responsibly is not entirely about economic gains, but this practice is also geared towards taking care of what made it possible in the first place – the environment and the public.

Children of Palawan showing their support to responsible mining. Photo from https://separasabayan.wordpress.com/

Rio Tuba Mining Corporation

With Gina Lopez shutting down mining companies during her 11-month tenure, one would think that the mining industry would come to a complete stop because of negligent mining undertakings. Still, there are a lot of companies that Lopez praised for their responsible practices and until now, continues to go beyond preconceived notions of what mining is.

Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation, is the winner of the First Asean Best Practices in Sustainable Mineral Development Award. RTNMC has also been recognized by DENR for its responsible mining practices.

RTNMC is in Barangay Rio Tuba, Bataraza, the southernmost part of  Palawan. They are not only dedicated to conscientious mining, but also towards helping the environment and the community.

They operate in a community where IP’s of Palawan reside. With proper consultation and consent, IP’s have allowed these mining operations to take place. They are not only given royalties by RTNMC, they are also given new houses and employment.

They also house their employees inside the vicinity where they operate. Not only that, they provide free medical care and education to the community.

They have been recognized by PhilHealth for providing social health insurance to their employees. Their employees and their families can get free medical care in RTNMC’s hospital.

Their school, Leonides S. Virata Memorial School, boasts an all-iMac computer lab with all the necessary software that could help students be more advanced in their day-to-day learning.

The Taganito Mining Corporation have also produced Mining Engineers under their scholarship programs.

They also have a Human Resource Development Program that has allocated 23.85 million pesos for infrastructure, household building, and barangay road constructions.

They are very much involved in Air and Water Quality Management, Waste Management, and Research and Development.

Most importantly, why RTNMC is the embodiment of real responsible mining is because of the respect they show the community where their business is instituted. This is done through their overall restoration of the area’s forestry. With a total budget of 103 million pesos, they go to great lengths to make sure that ecosystem restoration takes place.

Mining is undeniably one of the backbones of the modern world. A lot of people do not know that there are still mining companies who put responsible mining into practice and show that it is not a myth after all. These companies continue to be the most financially viable contributor in the country and also the most socially responsible.

Responsible Mining is pro-poor and pro-development

Rio Tuba Mining Corporation, together with others, continue to stand as a living testament to what people can do when growth and development comes first. Not only does responsible mining contribute to the Philippine economy, but also to the progress and development of the people who makes their exemplary practices possible.

Responsible mining, if only realized correctly, provides job opportunities to the marginalized, especially to people in far-flung areas. Not only that, responsible mining contributes to Philippines’ wealth by supplying higher income taxes to the government, pulling investors in, and strengthening tourism. And in the process of doing so, also not neglecting the obligation towards rebuilding a better forestry and a better lifestyle for the people.

Responsible mining is not just a myth, it is kicking and alive, and in the words of Former Secretary Gina Lopez during her visit to RTNMC, “Pwede naman pala!” (It is possible.)



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