The mining industry is important
to a country's economic development being a source of raw materials
necessary for industrialization. With its abundant mineral resources,
the Philippines has a vast potential to industrialize. This has yet to
be realized due to the current economic thrusts of the government and
the conditions in which the mining industry is being situated in our
The Philippines is rich with mineral resources. We are among the world's top producers of copper, nickel, chrome, zinc, gold and silver. We have about 7.1 billion metric tons (BMT) of metallic deposits and 51 BMT of non-metallic deposits. As the government claims, the country's mineral wealth, valued to be from $840 billion to $1 trillion, is about ten times our GDP and 14-17 times our external debt. If judiciously used, these rich mineral resources can be geared to supply the basic needs of our nation to address the economy's backward, agrarian and pre-industrial state.
Copper is a good conductor of electricity and is used in electrical generators and motors, wiring, and in electronic goods. It also conducts heat well, so it is used in motor vehicle radiators, air-conditioners and home heating systems. It does not corrode easily and is malleable. Nickel is used to make stainless and heat-resisting steels for consumer and industrial applications. Think of your kitchen sink, cutlery, pots and pans, and appliances. There is a good chance that they are made of nickel-bearing stainless steel. Its corrosion resistance and high strength over a wide range of temperatures make nickel a natural choice for a growing list of applications as well as its use in rechargeable batteries.
Chromium is used to harden and manufacture stainless steel and other useful alloys. It is used in electroplating to produce a hard, beautiful surface to prevent corrosion. Gold, as well as silver, has traditionally been used in jewellery but it is used as coatings and electrical contacts in industry.
Mining activity in the Philippines can be classified into large- and small-scale mining. Although both have significant contributions to our nation's economy, large scale mining companies, particularly those with foreign equities, dominate the mining industry . Their dominance can partly be attributed to the capital-intensive and high-risk nature of large scale mining, which, at this point, only the above-mentioned companies outside the national government have the capacity to venture into.
Our current mineral production is export-oriented and not geared towards the needs of local industry. We extract minerals and export them with little or no processing mainly to answer the international demand, and not for our local needs and consumption. Yet as we export our cheap mineral ores and concentrates, we are importing high-value mineral products which lead to trade deficits. Although mineral exports have brought in dollar earnings, the industry remains overly dependent on the international market, where the prices of minerals are always fluctuating.
Mining in the Philippines remains essentially in the extractive stage. Capacity in smelting, refining and fabrication is very limited, characteristic of an industry that is not fully integrated and with no linkages with the manufacturing sector. Even decades after the influx of foreign mining capital, our mining industry was still mostly limited to exploration and extraction. The current industry still mainly employs relatively outdated technologies.
The export-oriented production of the industry leads to the extraction of voluminous minerals from our lands just to earn large profits for mining companies and their local partners. The negative impacts of this rapid extraction to the people and to the environment is often the least considered, if not sweepingly neglected.
Mining has been part of the historical development of societies. In the experience of industrialized nations, a prosperous mining industry is needed to supply the mineral demands of local industries and provide the basic needs of the people. Essential to achieve this is the nationalization of the mineral industry. Mining as a basic industry should be controlled by the state for the Filipino people unlike now where it is dominated and controlled by foreign corporations.
An integrated mining industry with well-developed extraction and downstream industries will enable us to independently produce the machinery, tools and consumers goods we need, to generate jobs for the people, as well as products for domestic use and international trading. In such a setting, our mineral production will be primarily driven not by the international market but by our nation's actual needs and demands.