Mining Essay

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Mining has a very poor record in the Philippines as a result of the massive social and environmental problems it has caused historically. Records kept by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) reveal the Philippines to be among the worst countries in the world with regard to tailings dam failures2 whereby the surface impoundments containing the toxic waste from the mining process failed with disastrous consequences for local people and the environment. In spite of this, since 1992, the Government of the Philippines has been pursuing an aggressive policy to revitalize the mining industry, potentially opening 30 per cent of the country’s land area to mining.3 It has promised that mining will be carried out to full international standards and that environmental and social problems will be addressed effectively. The government has conducted mining road shows4 across the globe. Incentives for foreign firms make their operations effectively tax-free for the first five years. Billions of dollars in investments have been promised and a total of 2,000 mining permit applications are pending.5 However, critics say there is scant evidence of economic benefit to the Philippines at the national level. At the local level evidence of the detrimental economic, environmental and social impact is widespread. The ‘streamlining’ of the mining application process has become synonymous with a relaxing of environmental laws combined with attempts to undermine the legal protections afforded to indigenous peoples. It is feared that proposed constitutional change6 may further weaken protections. The Philippines, which consists of 7,107 islands, has fragile tropical ecosystems and is an outstanding biodiversity hotspot. It is one of the 17 countries in the world that are the richest in biodiversity. More than 52,177 species have been identified, half of them are

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