The Philippines is one of the most-mineral rich countries in the world. As of 2018, the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) reported that 207,000 workers are employed in the minerals industry. But the Philippine mining scene has also been very controversial from one of the worst mineral spills to the dynamic political relations involved in the industry. Considered as one of the worst mining disasters in history, the Marcopper mining spill that occurred in 1996 continues to hound the locals residing in the vicinity of the mines. Until today, the adverse effects of the spill are still not addressed and court cases against the mining company are still on-going.
Bad practices seemed to have persisted as the call against mining went on through the years. In 2017, the country’s Department of Enviroment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced the closure of 23 mining operations which rocked the whole mining industry. The said decision was made to “close any kind of mining operation in functional watersheds” even though a number of the suspended companies were already operating for years. The decision did not bode well among Philippine politicians leading to the rejection of Gina Lopez’s appointment as DENR Chief about a month after the controversial order. Most of the committee members who rejected her appointment cited the closure order on the mining operations as the main reason for her rejection.
Political affiliations also played a role in the Philippine mining industry. Respective stance on mining operations among opposing political parties provided an avenue for mudslinging and character assassination. In 2016, this was used as an election propaganda by President Duterte against presidential rival Mar Roxas. Duterte accused Roxas and his party as the protector of an alleged illegal mining operator in Mindanao.
But Philippine mining isn’t just about environmental issues and politics. Through the years, some mining companies have surfaced because of good practices like Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and sister company Coral Bay Nickel Corp. Even though there are still questions about the credibility of the companies as an outstanding mining case, both emerged as one of the better mining companies in the Philippines winning multiple mining awards, including the prestigious ASEAN Mineral Awards.