Status of Philippine Mining Industry

The Philippines in terms of mineral resources according to the 2012 Mining and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) report ranked the fifth richest country in the world. When it comes to nickel, the country has the largest nickel reserves. This is why, of the 35 metallic mines in the country, mostly are operating a nickel mining. The Philippines is also rich in gold and copper deposits and is the third largest in gold and fifth in copper deposits. Other mineral resources found in the country include, limestone, marble, clays, feldspar, rock aggregates, dolomite, guano and sand and gravel resources. A total of 350 registered mining companies are operating in the country.

The 2012 MGB report also stated that the Philippines has an estimated US$840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources. These mineral resources are quite extensive covering about 30% or about 9 million hectares out of the 30 million hectares total area of the country. About four percent of these lands or 1.14 million hectares are covered with mining permits and are still “subject to mandatory relinquishment provided under the law,” the MGB said. This indicated that there are still uncompromising struggles over these lands considering that over half of these lands are tenured under the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Tenure (CADT) of the various indigenous tribes in the country.

In terms of Philippine export data on minerals, the MGB report in 2012 reported an amount of US $1.59 billion, mostly of copper, gold and nickel exported to major destinations such as Japan, China, US and Canada from January to September 2012. However for the whole year of 2012, the country’s total gross production value of metallic minerals reached P100.80 billion (US$ 2.3 billion). Compared to 2011, this was lower by 18 percent with a production of P122.98 billion (US$ 2.8 billion).

In the same report, the mining sector employed about 252,000, which is a very small percentage of the country’s employed, but the MGB said “it is conservatively assumed that for every job in the industry, about four indirect jobs may be generated in the upstream and downstream sectors.” On the other hand, reports indicated that the local communities affected by mining, lamented the loss of their former livelihood in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Some of them were reportedly forced to become mineworkers instead, or service workers for those who work in the mines.

In the operation of an open pit mining where copper is the major mineral being extracted, the land is usually cleared of all vegetation, with the drastic alteration of the landscape and disruption of the ecosystem. If not managed properly, the mining activities can have significant downstream impacts, such as siltation of river beds, altered acidity and poisoning of the river and waterways, vulnerability of communities to diseases and flooding. Mining operations can also result to introduction of pests and diseases into natural ecosystems.

In most cases, after mineral extraction, mining areas have been abandoned with little or no rehabilitation treatment. This is usually prevalent in small scale mining areas where regulation is under the local government units (LGUs). Rampant cutting of hardwood species is being done for timber support of tunnels of mining areas. As a result, loss of timber and forest cover is a common occurrence. However, mining and minerals have an important role in economic development, including production of goods and products necessary in raising and maintaining standards of living of the developing world.