BUSINESSMAN Manuel V. Pangilinan underscored the need for metals to enable renewable energy technologies, not to mention the economic benefits it brings in terms of jobs and revenues that translate to better social services particularly in far-flung areas.
Speaking during the second day of the 2023 Mining Philippines International Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday, Pangilinan admitted there are inherent risks of mining accidents such as the Padcal mine tailings leak in Benguet that polluted nearby water bodies.
However, he said, mining, done responsibly, can provide the much-needed boost to the economy and enable technology that allows the world to transition from fossil fuel to the more sustainable renewable energy path.
“With the theme “Seeing Green: Shaping a Sustainable Minerals Development Industry,” the mining event brought together a diverse assembly of participants, including government officials, private sector representatives, academics, indigenous communities, and mining host communities.
Mining is important in the production of e-vehicles and batteries – which will require nickel, graphite, aluminum, and copper constitute their metal bodies and batteries, Pangilinan said.
Meanwhile, he said solar panel and wind farms need steel, arsenic, gallium, germanium, indium, and tellurium. Wind turbines, on the other hand, need aluminum and a number of rare earth compounds to make their generators lighter and more efficient.
In many respects, sustainability rests on green technology — and by extension, reliance on mining would continue, he said.
In the migration from fossil fuel to e-vehicles, for instance, he said charging stations would have to be built but it would be impossible to do so without metals.
“Beyond minerals, mining means jobs and incomes for our people, especially since mines are typically located in rural areas, where poverty exists and jobs are scarce,” he said.
At a press briefing at the sideline, he then added that in the countryside and rural areas, mining brings about economic benefits, helping people escape poverty through job generation, and national and local government taxes paid by mining companies are translated to proects and better social services that benefit the people.
The world is now entering an era of sustained resource demand as economies expand and the population explodes, he said.
“The Philipines missed the economic bus during the manufacturing cycle in the 50s and 60s, and the export boom in the 70s and 80s. This time, we cannot miss this bus yet again, with our available mineral resource base,” he said.
He warned that if the Philippines failed to board the bus, it would leave the country no option but to import, which means paying for someone else’s cost of mineral products, and their profits, plus the cost of protecting the environment. “This is not only absurd, it is also sad . . . too lazy to exploit our inherent mineral wealth and an insult to us when others – the South Africans, Australians, Indonesians, and Chinese – operate and manage their mining businesses well enough,” he stressed.
Pangilinan said that if these countries can conduct their mining operations responsibly and sustainably, so can the Philippines, adding that the industry has to further level up when it comes to sustainability practices and standards. The industry, he said, should not be judged based on the performance of its worst member, but rather on how the industry as a whole practices mining responsibly. He cited the case of Philex which, on its own, stopped all operations and addressed the tailings pond leak problem, even to the point of promptly paying the P1 billion fine imposed by the government for the accident caused by unprecedented rain volume on its mining area. – Jonathan L. Mayuga