Seeing Green: The Return of Mining Philippines

By: Marcelle P. Villegas November 11, 2023

After a three-year pause from face-to-face events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) returned with the much-awaited mining event in the country -- The Mining Philippines 2023 International Conference and Exhibition. The event was held last Sept. 19-20, 2023 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel Manila. This year’s theme is “Seeing Green: Shaping a Sustainable Minerals Development Industry”.

The event was an exciting reunion for leading stakeholders, mining executives, investors, government officials, foreign dignitaries, professors, students, members of the press, and more. The conference and the exhibit presented the latest trends and innovations in mining, quarrying, and mineral processing. The focus of the event is on green and sustainable mining for the future growth and development, with a goal to provide participants with a deeper grasp of the social, geopolitical, and economic aspects of the mining industry.

The exciting opening ceremony was led by Michael Toledo, COMP Chairman. He mentioned in his welcome remarks the positive changes in the industry, include the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects and of the ban on open pit mining.

He said, “It took a global contagion before these decade-long policy roadblocks were removed and the importance of mining was recognized.” 

“While most other industries were staggering and downsizing at the height of Covid-19, only a few large-scale mining operations experienced temporary closure, and these were due mainly to local government directives. This explains why mineral exports were largely unaffected and employment in mining was generally stable throughout the pandemic.”

“With the roadblocks to mining finally removed, three large copper-gold projects that were stymied by the policy roadblocks – Tampakan, Silangan, and King King – are now in a better position to proceed to development,” Toledo said.

He said that the three projects will provide great benefits to host communities. The projects are also forecasted to bring revenues to the National Government and the Local Government Units through taxes and royalties.

“Those are just three projects that were hampered by the constricting policy environment. If we can establish stable mining policies over the long term, we can see more projects coming onstream.”

“The industry’s potential will grow even more over time. And the Chamber of Mines is extremely hopeful that stability is just around the bend.”

Moreover, he commended the impact of government support as a great relief for the industry.

“Our hope is magnified by another positive change.  At long last, we have a government that has clearly expressed support – qualified support, let me emphasize that – for mining. The administration of President Bongbong Marcos, through the pronouncements of several cabinet officials in various forums…acknowledges mining as a priority sector with a high growth potential that will help our economy recover,” he said.

“We have been laying the groundwork – using a deliberately phased approach – to further improve our members’ ESG performance by way of the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative,” he said.

From the media release of COMP, “Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) is a set of tools and indicators to drive performance and ensure that key mining risks are managed responsibly, and best practices are used at members’ facilities.  It was established by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) in 2004 and adopted by COMP in 2017, making the Philippines the first in Asia to subscribe to this self-assessment system that is rapidly evolving into the global standard for best practices in sustainable mining.  COMP has made compliance with TSM mandatory to all its members.”

Toledo also stated, “Consequently, we are on track to meet our target of making available to the public the 2023 and 2024 externally verified self-assessment reports of our operating members.”

Finally, Toledo welcomed the government’s move to rejoin the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).  “We in the Chamber are open to any undertaking that encourages good governance.  After all, we cherish our position at the forefront of transparency reporting in the extractives sector.”

“As the world advances toward a wider energy transition to meet global carbon reduction objectives in response to climate change, mining's relevance has grown and become even more crucial,” he said.

The role of minerals in the creation of green technologies was also part of his message. The global demand for clean renewable energy is fast rising and since the Philippines has a rich supply of mineral resources, Toledo pointed out that we must take advantage of these opportunities in energy transition. But first, he emphasized that we need to address the divided public opinion on mining.

Other than the negative connotations on mining as instigated by some groups, Toledo mentioned that the industry has many other issues and challenges. For instance, there are conflicting local and national laws, the Philippines having high power costs, and a protracted permitting process. And then there is a fiscal regime that will not only enhance our country’s competitiveness as a mining investment destination, but equally important, reflective of the government’s designation of mining from being merely a “beneficial” industry to one that is “essential” and “critical”.

To conclude, he said, “Global trends, the challenges they pose, and the positive changes being effected by our policy makers and industry players aimed at ensuring sustainability are gradually transforming mining as an area of growth, responsibility, and a future that gleams with possibility.”

In summary, here are some notable quotes from other speakers during the Mining Philippines 2023:

"Our objectives aligned. I cannot think of a better duo than Australia and the Philippines. We have great opportunity here to go through this exciting pathway, hand in hand, exploring how things are working in both countries." (H.E. HK Yu PSM, Ambassador, The Australian Embassy – Philippines)

"Resource development and environment conservation are not mutually exclusive. And can be achieved by effective regulation and responsible mining practices. I want to recognize the leadership of COMP for adopting the TSM (Toward Sustainable Mining) standards in 2017, the first country in APAC to do so." (Guy Boileau, Senior Trade Commissioner, Embassy of Canada to the Philippines)

"The Philippines can be in a unique position to be an essential player in the global clean energy market, providing sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. This demand for minerals comes when the mining sector is expected to help generate government income to bolster our economic recovery." (Carlos Primo David, Undersecretary for Integrated Environmental Science, DENR)

"We are primarily responsible for the exploration, utilization, management, conservation, protection and sustainable development of our environment, natural resources and energy resources. The efforts of MENRE-BARMM are geared towards ensuring responsible mining." (Badr Salendab, Director General, Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy, BARMM)

"We aim to improve the economic condition of our host communities. Mining could be a big driver of economic development and recovery." (Engr. Eulalio B. Austin, Jr., President & CEO, Philex Mining Corporation)

"Exploration is the lifeblood of the mining industry. All of your mines are aging. Every day your reserves are depleted. You need exploration to replenish your reserves." (Joey Nelson Ayson, President, Philippine Mining & Exploration Association)

"Our country boasts an abundance of natural resources that promise both economic development and sustainable progress. There is a tremendous opportunity to use the extractive industry's potential to propel long-term economic growth. Philippine companies have several opportunities in mining and mineral processing. Not just exploration of mineral resources and their extraction, but also green metals processing and other value-added downstream mineral activities." (Sec. Alfredo Pascual, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI))

"Mining is not the enemy, but poverty is. The most damaging myth in which our industry must contend with is the idea that we must choose between sustainability and mining. We should forge ahead together as one industry, in unity, in strength and do the right things for our people and for our planet." (Manuel V. Pangilinan, CEO, First Pacific Co., Ltd.)

"The gradual easing of the mining policy environment under a supportive administration is something we are truly thankful for and will never take for granted. We are well aware of the responsibility tied to this renewed trust. As demand for minerals to feed the requirements of the energy transition increase, we shall remain steadfast in our resolve to help expand economic opportunities, promote social development, and protect the environment." (Gerard Brimo, Chairman, Nickel Asia Corp./Vice Chairman, COMP)


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