Brits hubris and lessons missed in mining talks

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By Jun Ledesma

Sunbursts

Monday, February 6, 2012


IN THE anti-mining assembly held at the Ateneo de Davao University last week, a "no-to-coal" advocate stood up to make a statement that the 300 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Davao City was in anticipation for the operations of the Sagittarius open pit mine in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Without hesitation Clive Wicks a British anti-mining advocate lectured that the proposed power plant was precisely to gain profits from the operations of SMI. Here is where the zarzuela starts with Wicks and the no-to-coal advocate rubbing each other's back. I have to give the Brit an "A" for the brevity and assertiveness of his response. I hasten to say moreover that there is more braggadocio to it than what seems to be an all-knowing retort from an anti-mining activist. In fact, if we grant that he knows the whys and wherefores of the Tampakan mine, he is apparently ignorant of the fact that SMI contemplates to put up its own multi-billion-peso 500-MW coal-fired power plant in Malalag, Davao del Sur to address its own power requirement precisely due to the ominous shortage of power in Mindanao.

While I personally am in conformity to the many issues raised by the anti-mining groups on the impact of an open-pit mine on the environment, I find the Brit’s hubris in professing informed knowledge of the power situation in Mindanao patently imprecise. His pandering to the environment militants, some of whom have varied interests and agenda, brings affront to his own credibility and sense of fairness. Being white does not convey that he is always right even if he proclaims himself to be an expert.

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Even without the so-called experts from London and Canada, local groups are quite learned and can very well articulate the issues surrounding the impact of the proposed open pit mines. The fact that Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje denied the application of SMI for an Environmental Compliance Certificate is triumph for the local officials and other stakeholders who have seen the threats of the open pit mines in Tampakan to their watershed and environment. We need not internationalize our concerns for listening to strangers, even if they are so-called experts, as they only stir controversy. Personally, I have reservations on their agenda as in the case of Wicks and company, they have not raised a finger of protest against open pit mining operations in England. The Canadian expert called to participate in the same forum has likewise failed to rally any form of protest against dozens of open pit mines in her country of origin.

Not that I doubt their competence but their respective countries having allowed open pit mines operations they too must be knowledgeable of the processing methods used by mining operators that maybe different from what SMI purports to do. Is there something in the processing methods used in Canada and England that they knew are acceptable to them that they acquiesce to the operations of open pit mines in their countries?
England and Canada have over a dozen coal-fired power plants each even before the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown. These rev the engines of growth in these countries which we look up to with awe. The foreign environment experts and consultants stonewalled the facts of open pit mines and coal-fired power plant operations from their dissertations which is rather sad.

It is on this note that if only the assembly was opened to pro-mining groups, then the issues could have clashed and at the end of the day participants could have absorbed more lessons in the discourses of experts – foreign or local. It could have been more significant and meaningful considering that the forum was done in the confines of Davao City's top academic campus.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 07, 2012.

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