The Dangers of Mining Industry in the Philippines A Term Paper Presented to Mrs. Lorna Caponong Department of English CASS, MSU-IIT In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for ENGLISH 2 (Writing in Discipline) Second Semester, SY 2010-2011 by Charissa L. Abingosa Sittie Joharah Alulong Maria Reziel E. Cortes Jeff de Jesus March 15, 2012 TOPIC OUTLINE I. Introduction II. Mining Industry in the Philippines A. Brief History of Mining in the Philippines B. Scales of Mining Operations 1. Specification of Large-scale Mining a. Definition of Large-scale Mining b. Condition of the Large-scale Mining Industry in the Philippines 2.
Specification of Small-scale Mining c. Definition of Small-scale Mining d. Condition of the Small-scale Mining Industry in the Philippines III. Health and Environmental Threats of Mining in the Philippines A. Environmental Threats 1. Soil Pollution and the Effect to the Bodies of Water 2. Loss of Flora, Fauna, Biodiversity, and Food Insecurity 3. Land Destruction, Subsidence, Siltation B. Health Threats 1. Effects on the Occupational Health and Safety of Mine Workers 2. Health problems due to Water, Soil, and Air Pollution IV. Suggested Actions for the Detraction of the Dangers of Mining V.
Conclusion What is mining? Why does Mining Industry in the Philippines exist? Is mining essential for the economic development of the Philippines? What has mining brought to the Philippines? Is it desirable or undesirable? Mining is the process or business of removing minerals from the ground (Encarta Dictionaries, 2008). Consequently, the nature of mining operations creates a potential negative impact on the environment both during the operations and for years after the mine is closed. This impact has led to most of the world’s nations adopting regulations to moderate the negative effects of mining operations.
Philippines should therefore adhere to those countries. | Philippines is the fifth most mineralized countries in the world (Asia Economic Institute, 2011). In fact, the former House Speaker Jose de Venecia (2009) estimated that the reserves of minerals under Philippine soil cost one trillion dollars. Apparently, mining throughout the history of the Philippines is fraught with questions – the very extractive nature of the industry is the biggest challenge, more so, given the country’s unique geographic features and sensitive and diverse ecosystems.
Hence, mining industries in the Philippines is harmful to the Filipinos’ Health and destruction to the environment which causes several calamities. “We have seen the devastating effects of some of the mining operations; the spillages of mine tailing in Boac, Marinduque, in Sipalay, Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, in Itogon, Benguet, and mudflows in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte…” (Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, 2004). The situation of mining in the Philippines, especially the small-scale mining, has been at its worst state. Mining has been blamed on the recent ecological calamities endured by the country.
This term paper is purported to significantly ascertain the negative effects of mining industry in the Philippines to the Health of the Filipinos and the Environment. And by the end of the term, this term paper will expectantly aware the public of the hazards of mining and hopefully encourage a responsive mining activity in the country. In the year 1988, Philippines was the sixth largest producer of chromium in the world and ranked ninth in gold production and tenth in copper production (The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook, 2004).
It was during these years when the Philippines had abundant sources of copper, chromium, gold and nickel, as well as smaller deposits of cadmium, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, and silver. Industrial minerals included asbestos, gypsum, limestone, marble, phosphate, salt, and sulfur. Mineral fuels included coal and petroleum. Hence, seeing the industry’s productivity, it is convincing that Philippines during these times had operated an agreeable mining activity. Considering the lucrative mining industry of the Philippines during 1900’s, despite its rich mineral deposits, the recent one is just a fraction of what it was before.
The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2012) considered low metal prices, high production costs, and lack of investment in infrastructure contributed to the industry’s overall decline. However, it can be seen that along the hasty evolution of technology comes the degrading quality of the Philippine’s Mining Industry. There has been a speculation that mining industry in the Philippines in the year 2012 is on the verge of its biggest boom in history as according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, mining industry is forecast to grow 17 percent in the recent year, with the metals sector seen rising 24 percent. As we allow you to mine, we cannot allow you to dirty the environment”, he added. Paje (2011) also clarified that the government has been cautious in issuing mining permits. However, the nature of mining in the recent generation is naturally destructive, being scrutinized because of the past harm done along with the change of its nature. This is specifically considered in large-scale mining operations because of the extractive nature of the operation. Therefore, even though the Philippine government is painstakingly cautious in issuing the mining permits, it is still arguable if mining is sustainable.
Persistently, some local government units have been ordaining mining prohibition in their territories, alluding concerns over environmental degradation, unequal distribution of tax revenue, unemployment caused by displacement of small-scale miners, and relegation of Indigenous People. Nonetheless, mining can also be acceptable. Later on, the researchers will try to suggest, with the benefits of research, some ways to minimize the negative effects of mining. The readers will realize that, throughout the history of mining in the Philippines, mining industry is harmful to the Filipinos’ Health and destruction to the environment.
Some of the categories of Mining Operations are Small-scale mining and Large-scale mining. These scales of mining are predominantly operated in the mining sites of the Philippines. Small-scale mining can be categorized into small-scale underground mining and small-scale surface mining. Small-scale underground mining produces 5,000 to 50,000 metric tons per year; based on the run-of mine (ROM) output while the small-scale surface mine supplies 10,000 to 100,000 metric tons per year (Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, 2009). According to the Chairperson of Cordillera People’s Alliance, Windel Bolinget (2011), small-scale mining “… eans it should be community-controlled and must be within the communities’ cultural, political, economic collective life… With this concept and practice, traditional small-scale mining is sustainable. ” Traditionally, small-scale mining operations rely heavily on manual labor using simple methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment or chemicals that would apparently be hazardous both to man and environment. In spite of this, the recent technology used by small-scale miners has surpassed its traditional procedures already. Safety measures weren’t directed to avoid any accidents.
On the face of it, these fatuities caused numerous mining disasters resulting to loss of lives and our own environment in peril. On the other hand, Large-scale mining involves the mobilization of substantial capital, heavy equipment, high technology and a much bigger workforce (Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, 2009). Large-scale mining companies in the Philippines are in majority owned by foreign investors. In terms of volume of output, large-scale mining supplies sufficient quantities to satisfy the requirements of the export market and large industries on a regular basis.
In fact, large-scale underground mines produces above 500,000 metric tons per year, based on the run-of mine (ROM) output, while large-scale surface mines produces above 1,000,000 metric tons per year (Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, 2009). Apparently, Large-scale mining, when compared to the other scales of mining operations, seems to be the most detrimental, considering its technology-oriented nature. In particular, the mineral extraction methods used in the scale has shown hazards both to man and his environment.
Mining industry in the Philippines has generated a vast range of problems; these problems are mainly related to environmental destruction. Worsening the situation, these apparent effects were often neglected. Just to mention, the excessive depriving of lands and mountains brought up by mining is at its critical point. Thus, the lives surrounding the area affected are at risk. “Time will come when our children no longer recognize the names of trees, the footprints of animals, the birds’ songs. This will be the time when the forest is gone, the mining companies are gone, the rivers no longer flow. And us?
We will still be here” (Samparan, 2009). The environmental threats posed by mining industry in the Philippines are namely: land pollution, air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. However, this term paper will mainly focus on the land and water pollution since these two threats are the most disastrous and most detrimental to humans. Putatunda (2011) defined that pollution is the process that introduces contaminants into the environment, which in turn causes the instability of the ecosystem, including both the physical aspects and the living organisms. Land pollution comprises land destruction and subsidence.
Basically, land pollution is the contamination and degradation of Earth’s land surface caused by misuse of land resources and human activities. Mining operations causes mountains to weaken. Viewers who witnessed the deterioration would describe it to be the falling of mountains. However, the technical term for this phenomenon is ground subsidence. Rain-loosed earth collapses into hollowed space at the base, ‘spreading’ mountains out sideways (First Peoples Worldwide, 2011). They fall on rice fields and streams, heaping trouble on many households, and on the worst case scenario, cause death.
In July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan where Philex and Lepanto operated an underground block-caving, was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide caused by the mining operation. 71 million cubic feet of earth gave way beneath him, covering and destroying 14 hectares of farming land (Unrepresented Nations and People Organization, 2011). Aside from subsidence in land, the water tables, the upper surface of groundwaters, have also subsided as deep mining tunnels disrupt groundwater paths (Cordillera People’s Alliance, 2007).
Tunneling often leads to a long-term lowering of the water table. In 1973, a disaster hit Gumatdang, Itogon’s oldest rice-producing village. Atok-Big Wedge implanted two gigantic tunnels on opposite sides of the village, immediately draining the water from its most abundant irrigation sources (Empian, 2010). In 1962, Benguet Corporation implanted another drainage tunnel that stretched between its Kelly mine in Gumatdang and its mines in Antamok. Instead of just draining water from the mines, the tunnel drained the water from a major irrigation source, drying up ricefields.
In addition, the felling of timber to reinforce underground tunnels has denuded surrounding watersheds, aggravating water loss. Air pollution caused by mining is due to the contaminated smoke released by machineries used in the operation. Land pollution gradually affects the bodies of water, causing water pollution. One of the water pollutions caused by mining is siltation, the deposition of finely divided soil and rock particles upon the bottom of stream and riverbeds and reservoirs (Roberge, 2012). Siltation of rivers is a serious problem in Benguet resulting from mining operations.
In the case of the Philex, a tailings dam collapsed in 1992, releasing some 80 million tons of tailings and causing heavy siltation in the irrigation system downstream (Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links, 2007). The company paid 5 million pesos to the affected farmers. Again, during a typhoon in 2001, another tailings dam of Philex collapsed. Ricefields in San Manuel and Binalonan, Pangasinan, were buried in toxic silt a meter deep. This time, Philex refused to admit responsibility for the disaster putting the blame on nature (Cordillera People’s Alliance, 2007).
The aftermaths of mining operations in the Philippines have severely threatened its environment. What was done is done. With land, air, water and noise pollution, our mother earth is in danger. Continuing to live in the present, ignoring the past, is presumptuous to be hopeful of having a convenient life in the future. Human beings should not forget that they are utterly dependent on their environment. Therefore, they should secure it and shoulder any actions that have damaged it. Mining has brought several destruction and pollution to the Philippine environment.
This destruction undeniably affects the health of every residents and workers where mining is active as well as to the adjacent places. The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSD) conducted a research regarding the health of mine workers of several places on 2006. The IOHSD stated that in the year 2000, the Bureau of Labor and Employment statistics recorded 78 occupational accidents. In the year 2002, the number tremendously increased to 822 or a 1,053% swell. The above mentioned Institute also stated some occupational health hazards which caused several ailments and deficiencies to the mine workers.
One of which is the exposure to intense heat. While the workers are exposed to heat, their hydration is very limited and it was discovered the miners usually have fluid and salt deficiency due to constant sweating and increased stress on the heart which in the long run cause heat stroke, opacity of lens, and reduced fertility. Poor ventilation is also one of the health hazards to mine workers which rob the sufficient oxygen needed by the body which may cause brain malfunction (Cordillera People’s Alliance, 2007).
Due to the nature of the work of miners, they are exposed to vibration. Vibration can cause permanent bone damage, vibration syndrome and digestive problems due to constant shaking of the internal organs. Exposure to airborne particles makes the workers vulnerable to systemic toxic effects because they frequently absorb lead, manganese, cadmium, zinc, and etc. Exposure to chemical fumes coupled with poor ventilation can cause accidents. Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is caused by abusive or overloading of a muscle in a repetitive manner (Cordillera People’s Alliance, 2007).
Miners complain weakness of the affected area, heaviness and numbness. Noise that miners experience can cause hearing impairment and/or disrupt body function like blood circulation, hormone imbalance and peptic ulcer. Manual lifting of materials may lead to acute pain. Biological and chemical hazards dangers to health of miners because miners expose themselves to cyanide. Cyanide blocks the transfer of oxygen from blood to body tissues which may cause serious ailments (Cordillera People’s Alliance, 2007).
The health and security hazards of mining in the Philippines are not limited to the workers but also to the settlers of a place where mining is active. According to the article by Farah Sevilla (2011), “Mining and Indigenous Women in the Philippines,” there are occasional disasters that happens such as mine tailing and dam failure which pollute the soils and rivers because of the toxic chemicals coming from mine tailings and dams. This has brought threat to the health of indigenous communities, especially women. The pollutants in air, water, and land contaminated the food and water which the settlers intake.
Women risk suffering reproductive health problems such as spontaneous abortion and malformed babies. Marinduque, one of the country’s leading mining sites, was discovered that the children living in the area had very high levels of lead and other metals. Some of these children died due to the metal poisoning as what according to United States Geological Survey, the Philippines Department of Health and Oxfam Mining Ombudsman (Soliditary Philippines Australia Network, 2004). The people of Bicol also suffer from different health problems. An article by Danny O.
Colleja (2011) about a Group producing a documentary on effects of Mercury in Bicol states that the used mercury, used in the formation of amalgam of gold and silver, is being disposed with the tailings which directly go to water bodies. Studies conducted in Bicol’s mining sites and nearby communities revealed that drinking waters and rivers have exceeded the recommended water quality criteria. It is also reported that marine species such as fish and mollusks have mercury levels beyond the allowable limit while the miners and children examined exhibited symptoms of mercury contamination.
Miners in the Philippines are found to have mercury levels up to 50 times above World Health Organization (WHO) limits, as what according to United Nations (2006). The residents of Benguet also experience health problems due to mining. According to the case study on the Impacts of Mining and Dams on the Environment and Indigenous Peoples in Benguet of Cordillera People’s Alliance (2007), the most common symptoms felt by residents of Mankayan, Benguet who have inhaled chemical fumes from mines are headaches, dizziness, cough, chest pain, nasal and eye irritation, itching of the skin, rashes, and diarrhea.
Wounds take longer to heal when exposed to the water of Abra River, one of the affected rivers in Benguet. The incidents and number of reported complaints regarding mining in their respective places will continue on increasing not unless proper action is taken. The health problems is how one of the biggest threat that mining has brought. It is therefore very hazardous to the environment and most especially to the health of the residents of nearby mining sites.
According to Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa (2011), “For mining to be acceptable, it must be guided by the principles of sustainable economic development, environmental protection, social equity and of course, good governance”. According to Sharma (2009), there are some ways to reduce the environmental impacts of mining and apparently will reduce the health threats. Some of the conceived ways in order to detract those negative aftermaths of mining are: 1. Reducing the consumption of minerals Humans are heavily reliable to metals nowadays.
But still, in order to reduce the impact of mining industries on the Philippine environment, Filipinos should consume less, so that fewer minerals are needed to build products like cars, appliances, electronics, etc. It can be suggested that resources should be consumed efficiently, but also by simply using less and recycling more. For example, instead of fabricating more cars and letting people buy them, Filipinos could rely more on public transportations. 2. The efficiency of manufacturing processes can be increased to reduce the amount of new minerals required
This suggested action requires advancement in technology to make the manufacturing process of mining more efficient yet less environmentally-harmful. For example, structural beams might be designed to be equally strong while using less steel. 3. Substitution of other materials and processes with more environmentally friendly materials and processes A long list of environmental ills, from toxic pollutants to deforestation to species loss to climate change, is due to the gargantuan appetite for materials, especially in industrial countries.
Nations and businesses are discovering ways to use materials more intelligently–to provide the goods and services people want using much less wood, metal, stone, plastic, and other materials. By reducing wasteful use, and by steering production toward durable goods that are easy to reuse, remanufacture, or recycle, a few pioneering firms are recasting the role of materials in our lives. For example, plastics might be used instead of metal to build appliances. Or biomass can be used instead of uranium to produce energy. 4.
Using recycled materials instead of mined materials Filipinos must look at getting more of our raw materials from secondary sources if they hope to decrease the impacts of mining, especially the health threats. Recycling has a number of advantages. For instance, it takes far less energy to recycle discarded materials than to extract, process, and refine metals from ore. It takes 95% less energy to produce aluminum from recycled materials rather than from bauxite ore; recycling copper takes seven times less energy than processing ore; and recycled steel uses three-and-a-half times less (Sharma, 2009).
For example, if tin cans are efficiently recycled, less material needs to be mined to make cans. 5. Improving environmental performance at mines Mines can be designed so that they produce less waste or use less toxic chemicals. Mining moves enormous quantities of earth; altogether, it digs more of earth’s soil each year than natural erosion by rivers does. Mining also uses large amounts of chemicals in processing and results in significant emissions to air and water.
By systematically examining environmental impacts and adopting measures to mitigate these impacts, it is possible to make mining less destructive of the environment. 6. Legislation and regulations to reduce environmental impacts can be enacted and enforced Governments can require mines to adopt increasingly effective environmental procedures and invoke penalties for failure to comply. Better regulations and better enforcement of existing regulations are keys to improving environmental performance in mining. 7. Cleaning up the abandoned mine sites
Companies and governments can be held accountable for abandoned sites and be required to carry out an environmental cleanup. Abandoned mine sites are potentially destructive if not properly closed. 8. Economic measures Economic measures like tax shifting can be introduced to provide incentives for practices like product substitution and disincentives for poor environmental performance. Considering all the mining incidents and researches on the impacts of mining, it is concluded that Mining Industries in the Philippines are dangerous to the Health of the Filipinos and their Environment.
Throughout the history of mining industry in the Philippines, Filipinos must have learned the fact that Mining, when not responsive and environment-friendly, is detrimental to the environment and thus, imperils their health, reducing their physical performance and will apparently affect their income, contributing to the economic instability of the country. To sum it up, the Environmental Threats of mining to the Philippines are: land pollution which comprises land destruction and subsidence; air pollution; water pollution such as siltation; and noise pollution.
The Health Threats are namely: hearing impairment; disrupt body function like blood circulation, hormone imbalance and peptic ulcer; reproductive health problems such as spontaneous abortion and malformed babies; and many other minor health impacts. The aforementioned aftermaths of mining operations in the Philippines have severely threatened the Philippine environment and the Filipino’s Health. With all these hazards, our mother earth is in peril. Human beings took advantage of the environment; therefore, they shall be the ones to be blamed and should take responsibility of any loss it had suffered.
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