* I originally wrote this last December 06, 2012.
When I recommended this article on “PNoy’s anti-mining stance” in my facebook wall, two friends, Jayant Bhandari and Citos Buenaventura commented. Nice, civil discourse and debate.
Portions of the article say:
“Funny though, the government does not seem to know its own anti-mining proclivities. This seems to be the case as the agency in charge of the sector had to backpedal on its target of $2 billion in mining investments this year after the latest figures showed a 50 percent plunge to $160 million in the first half. The government agency admitted that “uncertainties surrounding the government’s mining policies” were to blame for the huge shortfall. Well, duh.
“It stands to reason that the government’s “substantial” lean towards the cause of the anti-mining environmentalists would leave no room for compromise with the “pollutive” mining sector. This absence-of-a-middle-ground policy is a bit myopic: the environmentalists state that we ought to leave nature pristine for our children’s children and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
“But so long as gold prices remain elevated at over $1,700 an ounce – valuing one listed mining company’s ore reserves underground at over P250 billion – and so long as man remains motivated by profits, then it’s quite obvious that if we don’t mine it now, then it would surely be dug from the ground by our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Mining the gold cannot be stopped. The only thing to do is to make sure that the extraction will be responsibly done.”
Here are our exchanges from December 6-7, 2012. Both Jayant and Citos gave me implicit permission to use our exchanges in this blog post.
Citos: If the majority want to concede mining profits for the sake of a better environment, that is their prerogative. Same thing with deforestation.
The profits of mining has traditionally been very concentrated in the hands of a few and in some cases foreign beneficiaries, for most of the Philippine population, there is little incentive to support the mining industry in general. We hardly see the benefits of mining, but when mining spills and habitat destruction happen, the consequences are all too visible.
Nonoy: Hi Citos, “We hardly see the benefits of mining” — your cp and laptop, your car or bicycle, your house or office building, your school or shop, your electricity and electronic cables other gadgets, are ALL products of mining. Not one of those came from agri or fishery or forestry or from thin air. ALL are products of mining. No mining, no modern life, back to the caves, Fat-Free Econ 3: Mining and Environmentalism
Jayant: Citos: If the locals who own the land do not want mining done that is understandable. But what actually happens is that locals and government let companies develop a project and then start creating problems when the companies have invested a lot of money. This is nothing but a lack of integrity and cheating. But the worst suffers of this cheating is the locals. The risk associated with mining is very high, so investors want more returns, part of which could have otherwise gone to the locals. Moreover, such difficult environment means that in Philippines good people do not want to come, leaving you with crooked miners.
Citos: Hi Nonoy, We are talking about mining in the Philippines. My bike and car were mined from elsewhere. As an industry, mining in the Philippines has not benefited a broad swath of the population. Try to write legislation that opposes call centers, I am sure you will get spontaneous opposition from a lot of people. I do not see the same happening in mining. The employment is quite low, less than 200,000 if this source is correct: http://philippinemining.imaginet.com.ph/mining_articles/employment
Nonoy: We are lucky that people abroad have allowed mining otherwise we will have no cars, buses, motorcycles, airplanes, buildings, laptops, cps, electricity here. Bottomline, we benefit from mining, whether it’s done in Africa or Australia or Indonesia or in the Philippines.
About “low employment”, naturally, because mining of raw products is limited to a few areas. See also the data in agri, fishery and forestry, now constitutes a little over 10% of GDP. This is because employment in poultry is relatively small but see after the dressed chicken (counted in agri sector) has been sold as litson manok or chicken nugget or chicken curry or chicken adobo, etc. in millions of food stalls, restos, hotels. Employment and GVA here is no longer counted as agri employment and GVA but services sector employment and GVA.
Citos: Hi Jayant, I will not deny there is corruption in local governments which makes mining less attractive for good investors. I have very close experience with that. But that is the problem of the investors as it was for people close to me. From the point of view of the common person on the street however, mining has not benefited him. The profits of mining goes to the mining investor, then the local government official who allows the concession to operate. The local population in theory will benefit from the royalty being used for development/investment in their area. The most likely case however is that the royalty is misused by local authorities and do not turn into projects that benefit the area.
Nonoy: Taxes, fees and royalties of large mining companies (the small scalle mining do not pay any tax or royalty) are just gravy to the public. We benefit already from mining from the various mineral products alone, metallic or non-metallic, as I mentioned above. It’s like the agri sector, even if the agribusiness companies do not pay a single tax or fee to the govt, we the public already benefit from the chicken, poultry, pork, cattle, veggies, tilapia, bangus, other crops and products that they produce and sell to the public. Taxes are just gravy and top off to the beneficial effects of agri and mining.
Jayant: I am not sure why should you be obsessed with whether mining has helped the common man or not. Why should it be my problem or yours if someone does something and he profits from that? That is, unless I am coming from envy. In other words… Does what you do you do only with common man in mind? My view is that we add the most value to the society by focusing on us and our families. That is how I have seen people living, but then they don’t want others to live that way—this mindset leads to social poverty, which is the case with Philippines. (I have a lot of experience with mining in Philippines. I love the country but absolutely hate the DIY economics of the those who live there.)
Citos: Hi Nonoy, can you name one metallic product you own where you are sure the material came from a local mine? I can’t, probably most Filipinos can’t either. Most of our metal products are imported, and I believe most of our metallic mining production is exported. What does that mean for me? I do not need local mining to get the products I use. I do not care if my bike came from an aluminum mine in China or Australia, local mining has no contribution that matters to me which is why I have little inclination to defend it.
Hi Jayant, legislation in a democracy is partly a popularity contest. Our president, it seems is more cozy with environmentalists who want to preserve nature at the expense of mining. Now if mining benefited more people in my country, there would be a better balance between leaving the minerals under the ground and preserving nature. Since the benefits of mining has been so concentrated to a few, there is then no popular movement to promote mining.
Mining is extraction of resources owned in common by citizens of the country. Granting anyone the rights to mine is a privilege granted by the state and local governments. So compared to other industries, it is not a purely private venture like writing computer code or building chairs. There is the element of an agreement between the miner and the people so that both parties will benefit.
Mining is in trouble because it does not have the popularity it needs to secure that agreement. Under a dictatorship, or a corrupt government, mining companies only had to make a deal with the politician in charge. In a democracy, mining companies have to convince people that the venture will be worth the compromises in terms of degradation of nature and risk of pollution accidents.
Nonoy: From the link that I gave above, “A typical cellphone is made up of cobalt, silver, gold and palladium – all are mineral products. Even a barong-barong or bahay kubo will require nails, hammer, saw or bolo/itak – all from mining.” From copper alone, people produce wires and cables for power generation, transmission, distribution, telecomms, electronics; in motor rotors, coils, copper alloys, etc. etc.
Mining is in “trouble” because ignorance and misconception are larger than knowledge. It’s like coal power plants, right now the Philippines, Luzon especially, is dependent on coal by nearly 40 percent of total power generation yet many people hate coal simply because they believe in WWF, Greenpeace and other climate alarmists.
Right, mining is a privilege, not a right. The same with food, medicines, clothing. People who do not want to work but expect the govt to feed them should instead starve rather than live. Getting a mining permit is easier if knowledge is larger than ignorance and misconception.
Citos: Hi Nonoy, you can buy fabric and sewing machines and sew your own clothing as a completely private venture. Mining is different, you need a concession from the local government of the area that you will extract minerals from. If the local government is corrupt, you just pay him off. If the local government is doing it’s job, it will have to balance cost and benefits with the people and get it’s constituents’ considerations before approving the venture. The two are not the same in that mining has a much more public aspect involved vs cloth manufacturing.
Nonoy: Right, it’s one thing to get a permit from LGUs and the DENR-MGB, and another thing to say a sweeping “we hardly see the benefits of mining” because the benefits of mining is right there in your hands, in front of your eyes — your cp and laptop, your watch and car or bicycle. With gold hitting $1,700+ an ounce, gold mining companies, including small scale gold mining, is rising, it should be easy for a mining company to put up a whole school, or whole hospital, in the main city or municipality and hence, hope to get public disapproval. Corrupt LGUs, corrupt NGOs and media, are another breed because they want huge money for their own personal bank accounts only.
Citos: Hi, when I wrote “we hardly see the benefits of mining”, I was referring to local mining. My apologies if I was not clear enough about it.
Nonoy: Even to say “we hardly benefit from local mining”, it is still wrong. I do not know how much of all electrical cables running from Sulu to Aparri are from imported copper, but it seems impossible that they are 100 percent imported, there should coming from local copper mines. BSP is very explicit that its gold reserves are from local, the small scale mines in particular that do not pay taxes and royalties as these are mostly informal companies that are not registered with SEC or DTI or DENR.