Foreign ambassadors talk on how mining alleviates poverty | Inquirer News

Foreign ambassadors talk on how mining alleviates poverty

/ 03:14 AM November 11, 2011

Former Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said she used to market the potentials of Philippine mining in her trips as presidential envoy on mining, never realizing that her “hardest job would be convincing Filipinos that mining can be good [for them].”

So on Thursday, the veteran diplomat said she made sure five ambassadors of countries enriched by mining were around at the ongoing 58th Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference at Camp John Hay here.

Asked if their countries’ mine sectors were plagued by protests from environmentalists and indigenous peoples, Chilean Ambassador Roberto Mayorga, British Ambassador Stephen Lillie, South African Ambassador Agnes Nyamande-Pitso, Australian Ambassador Roderick Richard Campbell Smith and Brazilian Ambassador Alcides Gastao Rostand Prates had no ready answers.


But each of the diplomats read papers about their respective country’s booming mine trade to illustrate how mining helped ease poverty in their parts of the world.


Smith said that Asian urbanization and industrialization were “the driver of global demand for minerals and energy resources.”

Brazil’s mines contributed 40 percent (roughly $70 billion) to its economy in 2008, and 20 percent ($27.7 billion) to its total exports for the same year, according to documents supplied by the Brazilian Embassy.

Prates said China had been buying Brazil’s iron exports.

Contributions to economy

Mayorga, the conference’s keynote speaker, said Chilean mines, both private and the state-run Codelco (National Copper Corp. of Chile), contributed 62 percent ($44 billion) to his country’s total exports in 2010.

The United Kingdom developed the coal monopoly during the age of industrialization in the 19th and 20th century, and it is this legacy which made London the center for world metals trade, said Lillie.


In Australia, Smith said mining had been contributing 20 percent to his country’s annual exports since the boom in 2003. From 2009 to 2010, Australian exported $139.5 million in energy commodities and metal ores.

He said the profitable metals trade drew A$430 billion in new investments this year.

But even more important for the industry is the fact that Australia and its private sector have been providing foreign direct assistance to Africa worth $9 billion, he said. There are 230 Australian mine firms developing 650 projects in 43 African states, he said.

He said mining represents only 10 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product of A$1.4 trillion.

Pitso said South Africa had always been the top mineral resource area and mining had been its industry for a hundred years even during the apartheid years.

“It is estimated that 36,000 tons of undeveloped resources which constitute about one-third of the world’s unmined gold, remain in South Africa,” she said, adding that her country is still considered the top resource for strategic minerals like platinum, vanadium, chrome and manganese.

She said South Africa achieved independence 17 years ago and its new government still invested heavily in mining which has become “the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.”

The $21.6 billion in mineral exports in 2009 represented approximately 30 percent of the country’s total foreign exchange receipts.

Most of the foreign diplomats showcased their government’s liberal incentives for foreign mine investors that provided government officials fresh options for a proposed mineral reform policy being crafted for President Aquino.


Prates said Brazil had drawn up last year a National Mining Plan for 2011-2030, which provides “better oversight” for private sector mines, imposes new rules for compensation, and prevents speculation using a system similar to the Philippines’ “use-it-or-lose-it” policy.

Mayorga spoke about his country’s mine concession contracts, which are issued by regular courts, and not by the country’s administration to help investors distinguish between the state and the current elected government.

South African firm Goldfields has invested in a mine project in Mankayan, Benguet province, according to Pitso.

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Smith said with government reforms taking place, the Philippines could “work its way up the direct investment rankings … in three years.”

TAGS: Baguio City, Mining, Poverty

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