Gov’t should resolve policy on open pit mining
The National Institute of Geological Sciences laments the use of non-scientific factors in opposing mining

MANILA, Philippines – The government should resolve its policy on open pit mining since banning it also means banning even the gravel and sand extraction used in construction.

This is according to the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), which is urging government to resolve mining issues with inputs from industry experts.

“Aggregate mining, gravel sand mining is open pit, strictly speaking. People don’t understand what they’re really talking about. You shouldn’t be going home to a (concrete) house or drive on the road if you believe open pit mining should be banned,” said Dr Carlo A. Arcilla, NIGS director, at a mining forum.

The open pit mining ban in South Cotabato, where the Tampakan copper project is being constructed, is apparently inspired by non-experts who declare myths on geology and natural resources, Arcilla claimed.

“They must have decided on an open pit mining ban based on the book that gives a choice between mining or food authored by a non-expert. Such people even believe that mining causes volcanic eruption which is unbelievable,” said Arcilla.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has rejected the  environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of the Tampakan copper project, reportedly citing as basis an existing ban on open pit mining in South Cotabato.

“[An open pit] may not be restored to its old topography, but you  can put it in a condition that’s aesthetically pleasing, forest cover and all if it’s done the right way,” Arcilla explained.

While urging government to look more closely into the scientific basis of a ban on open pit mining, Arcilla said government should also study the under-declaration of the value of minerals, nickel in particular, which are being shipped to China.

Gov’t cheated?

Government should check the accuracy of the value of ore shipment to China in 2011 – placed at 20 million metric tons – since undervaluation strips government of revenue, he said.

“I was invited by Chinese importers, at the Asia Pacific Ore Laterite Conference, and I got an idea of what they pay,” Arcilla said. “If it’s undervalued by $10, that’s an undervaluation of $200 million. Companies found underdeclaring should be prosecuted.”

And since small-scale mines are not regulated, all of these should be put under the regulatory power of the government, he added.

“Small scale mines can get away with 70% (of gold revenue). They go without environmental monitoring. They don’t pay excise tax, no income tax. They don’t give a damn on the environment. After all, they’re illegal,” he said.

NIGS at the University of the Philippines, which has arguably the best geologists in the country, has never been consulted by government in its ongoing mining policy formulation, he said.

“We are concerned because our graduates work in (mining) companies,” he said.

The government is currently drafting an executive order on mining, which has made industry players nervous.-

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