Mining in Mindanao

Double Vision

Antonio V. Figueroa

After a long lull, the issue of mining has again hogged the national headlines. Two of the recent mining-related events are the decision of the Court of Appeals declaring the ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato is valid, arguing the prohibition applies only to small-scale miners.

Though the ruling was only recently circulated, the decision is actually dated August 22, 2022, a good seven months after the court officially issued the judgment.

Another mining-related case involves three small-scale miners in gold-rich Pantukan, Davao de Oro, whose deaths were caused by inhaling noxious gases while working inside a tunnel. Authorities, though, are still objectively looking into the discrepancy discovered between the autopsy report and the death certificate. In the first account, the miners supposedly suffered trauma on the heads while the second states that the demise was due to suffocation.

Lost in the din the cases have generated is the noteworthy event, the 29th Annual Mining Symposium and International Trade Expo in Davao City, an initiative that carries the theme “Forging New Heights in Integral Mining Industry.”

The expo cum symposium, hosted by Mindanao Association of Mining Engineers (MAEM), is not just about exhibits and the assembly of experts, but, in the words of Engr. Constancio A. Paje, Sr., the association’s president, is also about “refocusing (the mining engineers’) mandate more than the usual purpose of providing the avenue of development of our profession.”

For decades, mining, as a huge source of revenue for the country, has long been plagued by issues and challenges. For it to prosper, the threat of militant perspectives and overly hostile environmental worries should also be addressed. While vigilance against ecological destruction is an honorable responsibility, the flaws that affect the mining industry can actually be traced to the failure of enforcers to zealously and justly execute the laws. 

An overlooked fact is the vital role that mining engineers play in the pursuit of responsible and sustainable mining. They do not only form the protective mantle that guards the nature and the ecosystem from exploitation, they are the frontline in our march to making mining productive within the well-crafted provisions of our laws.

Jasper A. Lascano, regional director of the mines and geosciences bureau (MGB) in southern Mindanao, was more direct in his perspective about mining, saying: “[the mining engineers] are responsible for the development of a new mining technology that is integral to the balance of minerals development, environmental protection and corporate responsibility, while enhancing social development and best practices to maintain a healthy ecosystem.”

In his message to the symposium, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. also declared: “This administration recognizes the important role of mining in the extraction and development of our important mineral and energy resources to achieve our country’s development.”

Protecting the environment against destruction is not just about lip service, or the opposition to open-pit mining. Not all players in the industry, as a matter of fact, are destructive forerunners. What ruins the mining sector is the failure of those who execute the law to embrace reasonable, fair, and honest implementation.

In Mindanao, any observant pundit can always have the luxury of finding mining firms that make environmental protection a priority. However, the inroads they have gained in introducing best mining practices are drowned amidst the controversies other sectors want to raise in popular platforms and forums. 

More than ever, Mindanao, in the hands of pro-environment mining engineers, in the short term, can save the country from a lackadaisical economic journey.


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