Mining the minds of leaders

At the recent three-day Mining Philippines 2015 International Conference and Exhibit held at the Solaire Resort and Casino with Vice President Jejomar Binay as the keynote speaker, various issues faced by the mining industry were discussed, among them global competitiveness, the future of mining in the region, the contribution of the industry to the local economy as well as the hurdles that investors must overcome including taxation and the fiscal regime. 

As the vice president noted in his speech, the Philippines has a very large potential with about 14.5 billion metric tons of metallic minerals and an estimated 67.66 billion metric tons of non-metallic minerals valued at $1.4 trillion.  In short, the mining industry has the capacity to become the biggest contributor to our economy and generate much-needed jobs.

Vice President Jejomar Binay delivers his keynote address at the Mining Philippines 2015 International Conference and Exhibition last September 16 at the Solaire Resort  and Casino Manila.

However, investments in mining have fallen in the last five years—below the $20 billion target that had been set—due to the uncertainty that investors face with regard to a clear-cut mining policy which unfortunately the government had not laid out.

Numerous organizations that include the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC), the PCCI and even the Management Association of the Philippines have all expressed support for the industry, with the JFC even going so far as to write the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) urging for a review of their proposed mining revenue-sharing scheme, pointing out that any increase in taxes at this time will not be good for the industry.

The Vice President with the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines. From left: Engr. Eulalio B. Austin, Jr.  of Philex Mining Corp.; Mr. Artemio Disini of Eramen Minerals; Benjamin Philip Romualdez of Benguet Corp.; and Jose Leviste, Jr. of Oceana Gold Philippines

As noted by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, mining was excluded from the government’s 2012 Investment Priorities Plan —resulting in the removal of all incentives for the sector except for those provided by the Mining Act and the National Internal Revenue Code.

Mining industry leaders are therefore concerned about the future of the industry especially in light of the upcoming 2016 elections. During the panel discussion titled “Probing the Minds of Leaders” which I moderated, it was interesting to note that mining per se is not considered harmful to the environment and the wellbeing of the host communities and indigenous peoples – since it is a recognized fact that big mining companies have been contributing to the welfare of host communities through their respective Social Development Management Programs wherein millions of pesos are allocated.

VP Binay with Engr. Eulalio B. Austin, Jr. , President and CEO of Philex Mining Corp., at  Philex Mining’s exhibition booth

As the vice president stressed, it is the irresponsible mining practices that must not only be discouraged but outlawed even. “I am for promoting environmentally and socially responsible mining, adopting the constitutional principle of balancing interests over the long term,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe, who was the keynote speaker in last year’s mining conference, also recognized the potential of the mining industry to become a key proponent of economic growth over the next 25 years, describing the mineral wealth of the country as “staggering,” noting that the mining industry’s contributions to our economy are twice the size of the BPO industry in terms of jobs generated.

VP Binay with the media after his speech at the recent mining conference.

“I know that there is a world of difference between small-scale miners and the responsible miners here. As legitimate, large-scale mining corporations, I know that you spend vast sums of money to ensure the safety of your miners and to make sure that your mining operations comply with international safety standards and government mining regulations,” Senator Grace had said, acknowledging the fact that many companies allocate a significant chunk of their income to corporate social responsibility development projects to “give back to the people”—something that not many Filipinos are not aware of. 

Mining companies are hopeful that the future leaders of this country will realize the potential of responsible mining companies to become a key driver of economic growth —which in the end will benefit the people.

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