Should it be YES or NO to mining?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-28
With Gina Lopez of Bantay Bata fame at the forefront, you cannot escape seeing that “NO to Mining” TV commercial featuring a female advocate on DZMM Teleradyo. It may be running on the other Lopez-owned TV networks but it is when watching – or shall we say listening – to nostalgic music played by Bro. Jun Banaag when your Chair Wrecker sees this commercial.

The female advocate of “NO to Mining” denounces the giving away of our natural resources to foreigners by the government. There is another “NO to Mining” commercial. This one features a Pastor who speaks on the conflict between the needs of mass production and manufacturing versus the more basic need for food.

Mining is by no means an easy issue to resolve. On one end, the country needs to generate business activities and revenues. Mining is too tempting not to consider. After three decades of falling behind the American dollar, today the Australian dollar is even slightly ahead because of the boom that Australian commodities — absorbed mainly by China — had triggered.

In a recent BBC Report on Australia Mining made by Stephen Sackur, host of BBC Hardtalk, the following points were highlighted:

1. “No longer satisfied with purchasing iron ore and coal from Australia’s giant mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, China is developing its own mining operations and has funded a port with a 2km long breakwater that juts out into the Indian Ocean.

The Citic-Pacific Corp-oration’s Sino Iron project in the Pilbara region in the far northwest of Australia illustrates the scale of Beijing’s ambition.

The open-cast mine – which will become fully operational later this year – promises to be the “biggest magnetite iron ore mine in the world.” Sackur also reported that “China expects to receive at least two billion tons of iron ore from Sino Iron over the next 25 years.”

2. “In return Australia, already China’s biggest overseas supplier of iron ore, is guaranteed a steady stream of royalties and taxes.

And the project will generate thousands of Australian jobs – China contributes the finance and the management, not the labor.”

Sackur added that “the deal’s biggest winner will be Clive Palmer, the larger-than-life entrepreneur who holds the lease on the Sino Iron mine.” Palmer is said to control the mining rights to territory which contains 160 billion tonnes of iron ore. “It’s a mind-boggling figure — 100 times greater than the entire global output of iron ore last year,” Sackur said.

3. On the down side, Sackur reported: “The windfall from Australia’s minerals exports has strengthened the Australian dollar to a point where manufacturing bosses say their exports are becoming uncompetitive.

In Perth, Australia’s mining capital, there are signs of a bubble economy. Restaurants and farms are struggling to find labor as unskilled workers flock to the mines, where the average annual wage is $108,000 (£69,000).

A truck driver in the mines can earn more than a surgeon.

China’s thirst for Australian resources also serves to underline an environmental problem facing the Labor government.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is committed to the imposition of a carbon tax and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – goals that sit uneasily with the continued dramatic expansion of the energy-intensive mining sector.”

Sackur also highlighted the impact the mining operations will have on Aboriginal Sacred Places and a priceless heritage park that will be destroyed.

What should be considered very seriously by Filipinos is this — if Australia, a continent where most areas are not suitable for habitation, can see the serious downside of mining, all the more that we here should consider if we can really afford extensive mining in our country.

The case of Palawan is most interesting. It is a prime tourism destination. Tourism, developed to the level of that of Spain and Italy, can sustain our economy. Mining on the other hand is an exhaustible resource. What happens to Palawan after extensive mining had degraded the environment?

In Australia, the Senate leader of Opposition National Party raised the issue of Australia’s prime sources of wealth which are “being hijacked by a foreign government.” This issue has also been echoed by many nationalists here who have questioned through the past decades the free hand to our limited national resources that past Philippine administrations had allowed foreigners.

This becomes a problem when administrations tend to think in terms of what they need to accomplish within their term of office – that “after me the deluge” mentality. The mark of great leadership is the laying of the foundation for future national greatness, if such is not attainable in the short term.

The government owes the nation a BENEFIT versus COST accounting. Based on past experience, it would appear that neither the Filipinos near the mining site nor the nation at large really benefit from mining. The people must be told what they will pay in the short and long term for all these mining activities. The people should know how many Filipinos will really benefit from these mining operations and what is going to be the cost of environmental degradation and loss of natural resources that our nation will pay.

Let the people know the real score and after that – let them decide if they want mining.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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