Almost everything that people consume and use — from farm implements to transport vehicles, household appliances and communication tools, etc. — is a mineral product or relies upon them for production. In order to maintain lifestyle and security as a society, the mining industry must continue on a course of healthy production and exploration into the future.
In the Philippines, the mining industry has been rocked by strong negative criticisms in recent years. Unwanted fears, real or perceived, have created for the industry an image of an environmental despoiler. Forgotten is the fact that mining has been, is, and will continue to be a significant contributor to the country’s economic growth. But because mining companies have such a huge impact on local economies, they feel an even larger responsibility to help sustain a high quality of life in their host communities. Modern mining that is conducted responsibly will provide a more efficient and sustainable future for both the industry and the country.
Mining has gone a long way towards this end. In many parts of the world where mining is flourishing, the industry has proven to be a partner of communities in environmental protection and social development. Some call it sustainable mining in which, among other things, the mining company is tasked to redevelop the area and ensure thriving communities after the company has extracted the minerals it needs. More and more people are benefiting from this and slowly, the image of mining is starting to change for the better.
This is precisely what Norway-based Intex Resources ASA is doing in its Mindoro Nickel Project. The company takes pride in its high Corporate Social Responsibility rating with its Livelihood Enhancement Agro-forestry (LEAF) Project marking 130 hectares of tree and agro-forestry plantations for the second quarter of this year. The company has also installed water systems in different barangays that now provide potable water to a total of 16,500 household beneficiaries in 23 host and impact communities.
These milestones were what made this year’s Earth Day meaningful to Mindoro townsfolk as Intex celebrated the occasion with three other major events in cooperation with more than 1,500 members of the Alyansa Laan sa Kaunlaran at Kalikasan, Laban sa Kahirapan (ALAS-KA) in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.
“To this day, no single private initiative has ever contributed an important and basic service delivery to the development of Mindoro such as this. This is a significant and major contribution of Intex Resources’ MNP in the province,” remarked BuCor’s Sablayan Prison Penal Farm (SPPF) superintendent Francisco Abunales in his speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Potable Water System and the SPPF LEAF nursery. “In more than 50 years, this is the first time that the SPPF will now have potable water in our offices, households, plant nurseries and prison cell facilities,” he added.
With Intex’s various community development initiatives, a significant number of constituents from host and impact communities are already benefiting from real socio-economic services even before MNP’s actual mining operations are conducted. Company officials and employees are serious in their environment and social programs to demonstrate strict adherence to the principles of responsible mining. Through its LEAF Project, Intex at this early stage has already shown a model of a mined-out land rehabilitation by providing a multi-canopy rubber-based agro-forestry project — a land rehabilitation project that will not only provide socio-economic development, but also restore the natural ecosystem functions of the disturbed area.
Intex Resources MNP ComRel head Andy Pestaño remarked: “To us, responsible mining means remaining steadfast in our vision to improve the quality of life of our communities by responsibly utilizing and managing our resources while at the same time protecting the environment that hosts our life-support system.”
Throughout the years, Mindoro Nickel has been advocating the very same principles the National Mining Policy stands for. Mindoro Nickel was designed to maximize the utilization of the mineral deposit. It is confident to achieve an economic break-even grade of 0.4 percent nickel, below the geological cutoff, which simply means that the entire deposit will be utilized as all ore above 0.4 percent can be extracted economically. As such, Mindoro Nickel will avoid selective high-grade mining, which will potentially leave lower-grade ore behind, valueless. Mindoro Nickel also plans to process its ore in a local refinery, which produces final London Metal Exchange-grade nickel metal.
Leaving nil or at best no harm to the environment should make Mindoro Nickel an entirely new national industrial undertaking, rather than a traditional mining project. The metals refinery will be constructed near the sea where a pacific-size port will accommodate oceangoing vessels. The project is proposed as the country’s first refined nickel plant and could become a catalyst to further development of downstream industries, supported by its many valuable byproducts, excess energy and international infrastructure facilities.
Modern mining has indeed come a long way. It has become a protector of the environment and a harbinger of progress in poverty-stricken communities, contrary to what the industry’s opponents paint it to be.