Think tank cites need for sustainability indicators, monitoring platforms for mining

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said establishing sustainability indicators and monitoring platforms could help the country optimize the economic benefits of open-pit mining and mitigate its negative impact.

Ludwig Pascual, consultant and co-author of the PIDS study titled “Implications of Lifting the Open-Pit Mining Ban in the Philippines” emphasized this during a recent webinar organized by the state think tank.

The study, co-written with PIDS senior research fellow Sonny Domingo and research specialist Arvie Joy Manejar, looked into the implications of lifting the open-pit mining ban.

According to the study, the mining industry had a production value of P224 billion in 2021 and contributed over $46 billion to the country’s exports.

While there are economic benefits, there are ecological integrity concerns posed by mining activities such as disaster risks, natural resource depletion, pollution and chemical toxicity, illegal use of explosives, contamination of water bodies, displacement of families.

The inequitable distribution of benefits also remains an issue.

Pascual underscored the need to augment the mining fiscal regime for appropriate benefit sharing as well as programming mining revenues toward programs, projects and activities for developing human capital and ecological integrity.

He also emphasized the need to increase compensation for affected communities.

While mining is not a sustainable activity, Resources, Environment, and Economic Center for Studies board member emeritus Marian De Los Angeles said it is possible to have sustainable income from mining.

“Environmental, social, and governance principles should be practiced by miners, regulators, and the local community. Mining investments should also anticipate various risks and practice adaptive management to manage these risks,” she said.

To determine the social and environmental costs, she recommended the conduct of feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments by mining firms.

Meanwhile, Eramen Minerals Inc. vice president for operations Alexandrie Amadeo said nearby communities could enjoy long term benefits and improved infrastructure when mining projects are implemented and monitored properly.

But when benefits are unequally distributed, he said conflicts may arise.

“Enforcing regulations, addressing policy stability, and securing minerals properties away from non-compliant mining can be done for short-term management. Engagement with communities is crucial, and revenue from mining can address environmental and social concerns and contribute to long-term development such as infrastructure, hospitals, and social services,” Amadeo said.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau Mine Environmental Audit Section chief Danny Berches said the bureau is undertaking efforts to promote sustainable resource management.

Berches stressed the need to improve the enforcement of mining laws and environmental regulations, and of the importance of national laws taking precedence over local ordinances.

“While economic reasons are often highlighted for lifting the ban on open-pit mining, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recognizes the importance of intensifying monitoring of mining operations to safeguard the well-being of communities and the environment,” Berches said.

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