Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has hit the headlines again this week with an announcement the he intended to shut all mines in the country following deadly landslides.
The announcement came hours after Philippine Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Roy Cimatu’s order to stop all small-scale mining in the mountainous gold-rich Cordillera region, where landslides killed 24 people.
Landslides swept the gold-rich region on the island of Luzon in the wake of super typhoon Mangkhut. Damage from the storm is believed to have been exacerbated by widespread illegal small-scale mining operations, which have weakened the land and exposed miners to dangerous environments.
At least 30 people sought refuge in a mining bunkhouse owned by the Benguet Corporation during the landslides and were killed when they became trapped inside. A further 42 people from the mining town of Itogon, in the Benguet region, were missing, prompting calls for less dangerous, or better-regulated, mining in the country.
The government estimates that 60-70 per cent of small-scale miners in the country operate illegally, many of them digging for gold, silver and chromite.
President Duterte is reported to state that the mining industry “has not contributed anything substantial to the national economy.”
Mining accounts for less than 1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, although only 3 per cent of the 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves are being mined.
Mining has been a contentious issue in the Philippines, the world’s No. 2 nickel ore supplier after Indonesia, due to cases of environmental mismanagement.