PH ‘lacks mining engineers’

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Monday, February 17, 2014


THE shortage of mining engineering graduates is adding to the burden holding back potential growth of the mining industry in the Philippines, said a top official of the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers (PSEM).

PSEM president Caesar Lao-as said the country produces 60 to 70 mining engineers a year, which is way below the required number of 200 engineers annually on the average. He said the number is too small for the industry requirement.

He said the organization is also alarmed by the exodus of these graduates and Filipino mining experts who are easily pirated by
foreign mining companies for higher paying jobs mostly in Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and Canada.

“The Philippines is now the hottest investment destination for mining operations, sadly, the industry is facing a shortage, we are losing some to foreign mining companies,” said Lao-as, who is president of Cebu-based Asia Pacific Energy Resources Ventures Inc.

He said the industry needs “more mining engineers very badly.”

High pay

Although quite a risky job, Lao-as is encouraging college students to take up mining engineering as it is one of the highest-paid professions. The current entry-level salary averages from P40,000 to P50,000 a month. In other countries, licensed mining engineers are paid an average of $3,000 to $5,000 every month.

The mining potential of the Philippines is one of the largest in the world, with estimated $1.4 trillion in mineral reserves, especially gold, copper, nickel, aluminum and chromite, according to the Arangkada Philippines, an advocacy group led by Joint Foreign Chamber of the Philippines.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said the country is second in the world in gold and third in copper resources, while ranking in the top five in the world for overall mineral reserves.

Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that in terms of economic performance, mining and quarrying accounted for only 0.91 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 1998 to 2012.

By employment, the industries share for the period 2011-2012 was at 0.42 percent, based on data from the MGB and the Department of Labor and Employment.

Gold contributed the most to metallic mineral production with an average share of 72.24 percent from 1998 to 2012, followed by nickel with 15.16 percent and copper with 11.27 percent. However, gold is being smuggled by small-scale mining operators increasingly increasing since 2011, when the national government imposed a seven percent tax on gold sold to the Central Bank.

Bright prospects

But Lao-as said the growing interest of global firms to set up plans in the country is a good indicator of brighter prospects of the mining industry. He said this indicates there would be high demand for mining engineering professionals in the near future.

“We just need to make people aware of the bright prospects of mining, not only to spur the economy but also to generate more employment,” said Lao-as. “We also need to educate them about responsible mining.”

To help the industry produce and retain its workforce, Lao-as said it would help if the government will further enhance education programs for mining engineers and other courses related to minerals development and encourage the youth to choose a career in mining.

He said PSEM has been conducting a campaign for schools to offer mining-related courses. A few schools in Cebu, Surigao, Davao and Palawan are now offering these courses. PSEM also offers scholarship grants to mining engineering students.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 18, 2014.

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