By Marcelle P. Villegas
“Nickel is all around us. As popular myths and research continue fanning endless debates on mining, an unpopular truth remains, the Philippines holds a strong track record for safe, responsible and sustainable mining. These practices catapulted the country into the roster of top nickel exporters worldwide. “ (an excerpt from the video presentation of Phil. Nickel Industry Association)
Last August, Philippine Mining Club event presented Mr Isidro C. Alcantara, President of Marcventures Holdings Inc. as keynote speaker and as representative of Philippine Nickel Industry Association, Inc. or PNIA.
PNIA is a non-stock, non-profit association duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The association was established in 2012 with a goal to promote and develop the nickel mining industry in the country, and aims to represent the Philippine nickel industry as the single voice to champion its cause with various stakeholders. The mining industry is a major backbone of the Philippine economy, and for that, PNIA believes that the government and the private sector have a big role as partners in developing this segment in the economy.
The speaker, Mr Alcantara has a remarkable background related with banking and finance. He is a senior banker and former President and CEO of the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom), Executive Vice President of Equitable PCIBank, Senior VP of HSBC-Manila, and served four years as a Director of the Bankers Association of the Phils. (BAP). He is a certified public accountant and graduated with honours as magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and Accounting from De La Salle University, Manila. He also took Special Studies in Finance at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
He began his speech with gratitude for the attendees of the event who gathered to listen to the message of PNIA about the mining community. He states, “…hopefully we can inform, clarify and provide a factual and objective picture of the real status of the Philippine nickel industry. The Philippine nickel industry in particular and the entire mining industry is under scrutiny for its supposed shortcomings and inadequate environmental compliances. We beg to disagree. We contribute to the national economy and more significantly in a major way to the specific towns and provinces we are based in. Based on the [27th] information from the MGB in the Caraga region where the nickel belt is, the total socio-economic contributions and payments amounted to 467 million.”
“If you follow the foundational wisdom and thinking from monetary authorities, which I am an alumni of, the money released from wages and other payments, this is the velocity of money that they talk about, the circulation of money. The contribution in provincial areas is 3 to 4 times. In Metro cities, the circulation of money is 11 times. So when they talk of the mining industry contributing 70 billion, that is really a contribution of at least 300 billion. And that a truism that you check with the Central Bank.”
Mr Alcantara states that they believe that mining is a force for good and that overall, the industry contribute significantly to the upliftment of the socio-economic lives of the people in their host communities, where before there were none. “In our communities, we have provided education from nursery to high school levels, built clinics and healthcare facilities, initiated livelihood projects and created jobs, extended scholarships that allow the college education for our indigenous brothers and sisters. Taxes that allowed our LGUs to build roads and bridges and constructed much needed hospitals to give emergency and primary healthcare services. We are the only business where we are mandated to contribute 1.5% of our operating cost [directly] to our host communities for poverty alleviation.”
He also noted that they, the member companies of PNIA, are doing a great job in the environmental programs and that in fact, they do beyond compliance.
Why is nickel one of the leading minerals in the industry? From PNIA’s report, nickel is one of the most versatile minerals on earth that is so powerful that it plays a vital role in the development of various industries. It is used in healthcare, agriculture, and communication. Nickel is all around us.
How does mining in Philippine context shape up? From a video presentation by PNIA, it states, “Massive advances in technology have transformed and improved the mining productivity over the years giving birth to safer, more efficient and more sustainable techniques. Philippine nickel mines use contour mining method where the process of benching is adopted to properly patch or extend the slope, hence the term contour mining, because it follows the slopes of the mountains by making benches for access in mining. With this type of surface mining, the ore extracted is closer to the surface ranger from only 3 – 25 meters below the ground.” In order to limit its side-effects on the environment, their method systematically removes a thin layer of overburdened or top soil to extract the desired deposit.
However, despite all these systematic methods and well-regulated mining practices, there are still endless concerns about their long-term effects on the environment. How then can we make mining environmentally sustainable? The answer is, environmental rehabilitation and reforestation.
After the speech and presentation by Mr Alcantara, a panel discussion took place with Clarence T. Pimentel, Jr., Chairman Emeritus of PNIA and President/CEO of CTPCMC; Ferdinand Pallera, President, Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.; Engr. Cesar F. Simbular, Jr. President, DMCI Mining Corp.; Tulsidas Consunji-Reyes, Vice President for Marketing, DMCI Mining; and Antonio L. Co, President, Carrascal Nickel Corporation.
About Philippine Mining Club:
Running for 8 years now, the Philippine Mining Club is closely affiliated wiht the Melborne Mining Club. The group was formed to create better relationships across all areas of the mining industry whose aim is to uphold a professional networking environment in promoting the exploration, extraction and minerals industry of the country.