Opposition stunts growth of PH mining industry, PCCI admits

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 February) – The huge potential of the country’s mining industry has not moved forward due to the strong opposition by environmentalist, church groups and local politicians, a major business group admitted.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) cited as an example the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer.

The Tampakan project experiences delays because of continued opposition by civil society and the provincial government, and the succeeding denial of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it said in a statement on Saturday.

PCCI, the country’s largest business organization, said it was concerned over the impasse between mining and environmental concerns.

Owing to this, the group is calling on all stakeholders to gather “in an objective and intelligent discussion to come up with a rational and acceptable solution that will advance sustainable development, responsible mining and inclusive economic growth.”

The Philippines is ranked top five in the world for overall mineral reserves, which cover an estimated nine million hectares. Mineral reserves in the country are estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion.

Philippine deposits of copper, gold, chromium and nickel are among the largest in the world. The country also has significant deposits of silver, coal, gypsum, sulphur, clay, limestone, marble, silica, and phosphate.

Despite these potentials, minerals exploration and development has not fully moved forward because of strong opposition by environmentalists, church groups and local politicians, PCCI said.

“The situation has contributed to the perception of an unstable climate for doing business in the country,” it said.

PCCI also expressed concerns over the proposed Executive Order reforming the mining industry.

The Aquino administration was expected to come out soon with a new mining policy that would reportedly impose higher taxes from the mining industry.

“Amending an existing policy creates a climate of uncertainty and puts in negative light the stability of national policies and the country’s investment environment,” Miguel Varela, PCCI president said.

To aid in crystallizing understanding and contribute to the speedy resolution of this issue, PCCI, together with the Management Association of the Philippines and the Financial Executives of the Philippines, is organizing a national conference on mining’s impact on the Philippine economy and ecology.

The conference will engage stakeholders in an intelligent debate to come up with a solution that is acceptable to all parties concerned.

Varela stressed: “The benefits of mining and minerals development will accrue only if we are able to harmonize the agenda on sustainable development and responsible mining and ensure understanding and social acceptance of mining activities and minerals development.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)