There has been plenty said about the push by Indonesia to gain more revenue from its mining industry – a push that has been costly for many in the industry as well as for mining investment. There is no doubt the resource nationalism quest has set the industry back, but it must be remembered that Indonesia is not alone in this regard.
It is a growing global trend that has recently manifested itself in South Africa and Tanzania while the Philippines is making similar noises at a time when the impacts of an environmental crackdown on the industry are still being felt. In the past governments in Mongolia and even the resources stronghold of Australia have made similar moves, which have hit the industry hard and mining is still recovering.
More recently in Western Australia there was a plan to dramatically increase gold revenue for the state owing to shortfalls in GST revenue but thankfully the government has realised that this is self-defeating and the plan has been shelved … talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Why was this even considered at a time when the industry needs all the help it can get? It is particularly perplexing when considered that Western Australia is built on the back of mining.
It is a familiar story for the industry but one that governments around the world seem intent on pursuing despite failures past and present.
The mining industry in the Philippines, the world’s fifth most mineralised nation, is a virtual basket case following the ‘reign’ of former environment secretary Regina Lopez. With the apparent backing of President Rodrigo Duterte and citing environmental concerns, earlier this year she ordered the closure of 22 of the country’s 41 operating mines, primarily in nickel, and cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines.
Although her measures were strongly opposed by the industry and her appointment was eventually not confirmed resulting in her replacement in May by former Armed Forces chief-of-staff Roy Cimatu, the damage has been done with many mines not operating and new projects unable to get off the ground. A knock-on effect is the loss of many jobs at the mines as well as at the many companies that support mine operations.
Lopez’s successor now has the unenviable task of getting the industry back on then rails, and will need all the help he can get. His early efforts, however, are not being helped by talk of maintaining the ban imposed on open pit mining as well as murmurings of the need to impose bans on raw material exports in order to encourage in-country processing. The latter is a very populist topic but the mistakes made by Indonesia in this quest must be heeded.
Unfortunately for the entire industry, as is the case in many mining jurisdictions, some operators in the past have not done the right thing by the environment and local residents, and this has resulted in everyone suffering the consequences. This situation is never helped by the actions of artisanal miners. The uncertainty these resource nationalism efforts create is also detrimental to the industry and to investment.
This regional focus of the Q4 edition of The ASIA Miner is the Philippines and we take a look at a few of the mines that are still operating but also tell the story of some who are still not able to operate. Our Future of Mining series takes a look at the need for a digital transformation within the industry, and this doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel, rather taking up some of the digital technology that is available now. We also continue the Waste to Energy series and focus on ways the industry can implement these common sense solutions.