Economics and Society 101: If mining is not the choice, what is?


By ARTHUR BOQUIREN

This column welcomes the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN. Nordis reported that 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet gathered August 7 and agreed to unite against large-scale destructive mining.

There is silence with regard to small scale mining but that is alright because what is more important is to unite against a principal enemy. Indeed Benguet ought to organize itself as a strong lobby group against large-scale mining. The lobby and advocacy group must go further and enlist local officials and the citizenry in the fight.

It is easy to argue that other Philippine provinces have developed far better than Benguet even without mining in their communities. Municipalities without mining have performed just as good (for precision: rephrase “just as good” to “just as bad”) if not better compared to the municipalities with mining.

Large-scale mining only creates a situation that profits are extracted from the communities for multinational companies and big Filipino capitalists to enjoy. The wastes, mine tailings, and environmental damage are left behind. Communities suffer in the long run for short-term and extremely minuscule gains.

Mined-out municipalities become less flexible to various development options and the long-term negative impact of mining on development persists even after the mining companies have already left for several years.

If you know that a certain area has been mined out, would you want to locate your residence, schools, factories, and offices there? Would agriculture remain profitable as mining disturbs also the water tables? Of course not.

Mining actually reduces the development alternatives open to communities. Land becomes inflexible for multiple uses and mining limits the development of the municipalities in the long run.

We are not even including the “intangibles” in our equation. What about our rivers? Surely even if mine wastes are not toxic, the wastes excreted through the waterways have a negative impact on biodiversity. Many of the waste, however, are toxic and this fact exacerbates the environmental damage.

The mine tailings can turn our waterways murky and even this alone has a negative impact on biodiversity in our waterways. Instead of being a source of food like fish, our waterways become a source of poison. In certain instances, fish that are known to be highly tolerant to heavy metals survive, but the heavy metals in the fish accumulate in the bodies of humans who eat them. Thus, do not trust too much the fishponds that are put up by mining companies in their mining areas. There is even no evidence that the fishponds are commercially viable.

Benguet has large-scale mining for close to a hundred years now. Are we even close to the development level of the municipalities in the first world given that multinational companies have profit from Benguet gold? Do we see many Ibalois and Kankanaeys enjoying themselves first class ala the rich people of Makati? There may be a handful but they are not in droves.

Further, do we see mining communities that have really developed over time? None.

Mining is like rape. It extracts out the beauty of the land, leaving the victim haggard, desecrated, and violated. Depending on the severity of the violence of the rape or the violence committed during the rape, the victim can become ugly.

Thus, the people of Benguet must look for development alternatives other than mining. The long-term solution to the development ills of our country probably lies in the elimination of semi-feudal and multinational oppression. In the interim, however, there can be real development as long as we are able and willing to think outside the box.

Several alternatives to mining have already been offered: sustainable low-input agriculture or vegetable production, agroforestry, maintenance of the Cordillera forest and advancements of payments for environmental services, and the like. These are even the traditional options. The technologies available in the 20th century should imply more options and alternatives. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)(NorthernDispatch)

One Response to “Economics and Society 101: If mining is not the choice, what is?”

  1. Graeme Wald Says:

    This is a sad, sick, report. When are you stupid people who are actually being led around by the ear, by the very people who are making the dollars out of your stupid, but loyal ideas on how to savethe country going down the tube. GET SMART.
    I am an outsider. The one standing in front of you telling you all the stories in most cases is connected in some way to the very land he is trying to stop mining on. He has a hiden agenda, and its MONEY MONEY all the way to the bank. Mining of resources is a world wide thing, but looks to only be a problem in the Philippines. ?? why ?? MONEY, The saint standing in front of you is after a bit more of the action he has been late in getting his cut from. Most mining claims are owned by your very own government officials who are making you all look stupid and wanting to hurt you own fellow country men and woman. WAKE UP NOW, BEFORE THE PARTY IS OVER. Try to find one honest Philippino who has the people and country at heart. It will be difficult in a country that shows extreme anger at his neighbour if he has a new car or a new coat.

    —–
    I aint got no cut. and im not interested in having one. thank you and scram. 🙂
    – Barangay RP

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