Mining is not an advocacy, it is a necessity
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa () - March 24, 2012 - 12:00am

A lot of the misunderstanding about mining comes from a distorted view that it is an advocacy. Because of this the debate in the Philippines boils down to pro-mining and anti-mining. Anti-mining groups have argued that it is choice between ecotourism, agriculture and mining with mining as the least desirable. This is untrue. Perhaps it will help if we factor in the uses of the products of mining. 

It is a fact that civilized life as we know it will cease to exist without the many uses of the products of mining. If you were to count the number of things one uses in daily life that come from mining, it will be a long list indeed. I could not have even written this column without a computer. It uses steel and a rare metal among its components.

I am sitting on a swivel chair with steel legs. And of course, I am doing all this writing in my house that is made of concrete, glass and steel. If I got sick and needed to go to the hospital I would get into a car made of steel that uses oil and gasoline (part of the extractive industry that mining is, by the way). I would go to a hospital and have an X-ray which also uses a component that had to be mined. I am sure I missed out on other things including the fork and spoon I used when I ate my breakfast and the gold earrings I am wearing.

From the blog “Answers to life’s questions”: It says among other things “copper is used to pipe water supplies.”

“It is also used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems. Computer heat sinks are made out of copper as it is able to absorb a high amount of heat.

“Magnetrons, found in microwave ovens, contain copper. Vacuum tubes and cathode ray tubes both use copper.

“As a good conductor of electricity, copper is used in copper wire, electromagnets and electrical relays and switches.” (CNP: Take note electricity providers).

From Geology.com, we learn about its medicinal uses. “Copper is an essential trace element that has been known to be in living tissue for more than 200 years. Even before it was known to play an integral role in the human body, ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, used copper for water sterilization, headaches, trembling of the limbs (likely seizures or Parkinson’s like symptoms), burns, and itching.

“In the 19th century, copper’s medical potency was first observed during the outbreak of cholera, in Paris, in 1832, when copper workers were found to be immune to cholera.” 

*      *      *

There is a lot of talk of a looming crisis about rare earth metals used for cellphones, computers, and televisions. China is a major source of these rare earth metals. It recently announced it would cut back exports.

With the precarious relations between China and the US Americans are worried that what was once a ready source of these metals may close up and affect America’s supremacy in technology that requires these earth metals.

The Americans will have to find other, less problematic sources. Among these rare earth elements are ytrium, cerium, lanthanum, didymium, erbium and terbium. Strange names I would not have known until recently.

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The Philippines has been described as one of the richest sources of metals in the world especially gold and copper. Large international mining groups want to come into the country and develop its mining industry but they are discouraged by its flip-flopping policies. In the scheme of things the country owns the mining source but it does not have the money or the technology necessary to mine up to international standards that have been developed through the years in other countries.

It is therefore a joint venture between government of the country and a mining group. If the government does not do its part then there is no joint venture. For example the Sagittarius Mining Inc., the local counterpart of X-Strata which is well-known for its ability to mine responsibly and create wealth for the country, has been made to sit out and wait until politics is sorted out. Its work has been stymied by the confusion of national and local laws contradicting each other. A new mining code designed to destroy the industry is now before Congress. The upshot is we have not made use of our natural wealth that could have made us a developed economy.

If the Philippines and the project of SMI is indeed one of the largest in the world, why have we dilly-dallied from seeing it through and benefiting our people like other countries have with similar resources? There are many reasons both political and non-political.

But I think it is also because we do not know or we choose to ignore what metals are for and their uses in our daily life. We think that it is caprice that we should accept mining as a primary industry or as others put it why should we let foreigners take over our wealth? (It is not wealth if it remains under the ground!)

Perhaps it is time we understand what mining is about and why it is not an advocacy but a necessity for modern life.

That does not mean that we would ignore environmental concerns and not maximize on the benefits for the country. But why have other countries with less mineral riches manage to make use of their resources responsibly? Why can’t we?

 Since gold and copper are the metals the Philippines has in abundance, let us look at what is happening in Tampakan where the Sagittarius Mining Inc , the local group of X-Strata, the mining giant, have set themselves up.

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The estimate for the $5.9-billion Tampakan project in the Philippines has been raised recently. The Australian Indophil Resources, which is part of the consortium, confirmed that it ranks as one of the world’s biggest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.

According to Indophil, new information shows that Tampakan was now believed to contain 15 million tons of copper and 17.9 million ounces of gold, up from the previous estimates of 13.9 million tons of copper and 16.2 million ounces of gold.

Still the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) refuses to give it an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) after it said it will having fulfilled the requirements.

Without this permit Sagittarius cannot begin its work. In this tug of war DENR blames a provincial ban on open-pit mining. Where is the political will?

AUSTRALIAN INDOPHIL RESOURCES BUT I COPPER DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE CERTIFICATE FROM GEOLOGY MINING SAGITTARIUS MINING INC TAMPAKAN USES
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