sharing in governance of extractive industries

A Tale of Two Mineral-Rich Countries: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

Curse?: Regina Lopez, the Philippines’ Secretary responsible for environment and natural resources since July this year is campaigning hard to break with the past legacies of mining in her country.  Referring to a legacy of abandoned mines and poor operating and environmental practices, Lopez has said “I use the computer, the phone, I’m not against the mining industry. What I’m against is the suffering of the people.” “Some people may twist the truth to serve their own ends, but the fact remains: mining has not helped raise our people from the pits of poverty”.[1] Several mines have already been suspended by government for earlier breaches and a comprehensive compliance audit at all other operations is in progress.

The Philippines hosts considerable untapped mineral potential, yet mining accounts for just 0.7 percent of the economy and barely makes an impression on national budget receipts. At these levels President Duterte might well feel justified in saying that his country can survive without mining. The Chamber of Mines, however, contends that there is US$23 billion of potential mine investment to 2020 being put at risk.[2]

Blessing?: Piyush Goyal, India’s Mines Minister since July this year, has a different take on his country’s mineral riches - “The wealth is below the ground, that is true wealth.” His quest is to attract 1 trillion Rupees (US$15 billion) worth of investment in exploration and mining.[3] With India widely touted as the next locomotive for global economic growth after China’s stint playing that role, the country will need access to very significant amounts of minerals and metals. Wavering policies and strong anti-mining sentiment has put a lid on investment in the past and resulted in India having to import a high proportion of its mineral needs. The first significant set of amendments to the country’s mining laws since 1957 were adopted in 2015, to provide encouragement to mining investors. The Minister wants to see output double by 2020. Critics suggest the government is turning a blind eye to the harm this will cause – after all, India itself coined the phrase “orphaned mines”, referring to abandoned and toxic mine sites.[4]

Although mining already takes place on a large scale, it only accounts for 2.5 percent of the economy and, as in the Philippines, barely makes an impression on national budget receipts. Only about 13 percent of 575,000 square kilometers with geological potential in India has been explored in detail so far according to the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries.

[4] Chandra Bhushan and Srestha Banerjee 2015, Losing Solid Ground: MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 and the state of the mining sector in India, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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