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Striking a balance: Mining expansion in the Philippines amidst green energy demands and environmental concerns

Amidst the Philippines’ efforts to increase mining activities to meet the global demand for metals crucial for green energy transition, environmental advocates are urging for stringent regulations to safeguard nature and Indigenous territories.

The Philippines boasts significant copper and nickel reserves, along with rich deposits of cobalt, all vital for clean energy technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.

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To fulfill the requirements for renewable energy technologies, mineral production needs to quadruple by 2040, according to the Paris Agreement goals. The World Bank also forecasts a 500% surge in demand for transition minerals.

With nearly two-thirds of the country’s mineral reserves located on Indigenous lands, environmental and rights groups are pushing for new laws to restrict mining to the bare minimum needed for the energy shift.

Maya Quirino, advocacy coordinator at the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), emphasized the need for responsible mining practices. She advocates for legislation permitting only the essential extraction of critical minerals and proposes higher taxes on mining companies to benefit local communities.

A proposed mining bill, backed by lawmakers and supported by the LRC, aims to limit destructive mining practices and increase community benefits. However, it is still awaiting approval in Congress.

The expansion of mining globally has doubled the area covered by mines in the last three years, driven by critical mineral demand. In the Philippines, this has exacerbated environmental and social impacts, leading to water depletion and Indigenous displacement.

Local communities near mines like Tampakan and Didipio have protested against pollution and water shortages caused by mining activities.

Myrna Duyan, a member of the Tuwali indigenous group residing near the Didipio mine, highlighted the adverse effects on farming and community cohesion due to mining operations.

Despite the perceived economic benefits, most mining taxes go to the national government rather than local communities. Advocates argue for increased royalties and fines for environmental and human rights violations.

While President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has pledged to reform the mining tax regime, the proposed minerals management bill is not a legislative priority. Nonetheless, advocates stress the urgency of anticipating mineral demand and implementing sustainable resource management practices.

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