The Matrix of the Philippine Mining Industry

The mining industry is one of the biggest industries in the world and a vital industry in the techno-industrial society. In every part of the world with minerals, mining companies compete to exploit the resources from which they can profit, which has led to horrendous destruction of the Earth’s biosphere. Life support systems such as water, forests, and wildlife are destroyed everyday by these companies.

The Philippine Archipelago is a set of mountainous islands with three major regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Geologically, the Philippines is part of the Circum-Pacific Belt of Fire, where mineral resources are exceptionally abundant.

In the Philippines, as well in other parts of the earth, local peoples’ livelihoods are eradicated with the mining process. People in the farming and fishing industries lose the resources vital to their jobs, and indigenous / tribal peoples are harassed or bribed to leave their land, or are displaced to city slums. For those that stand up to militantly oppose the mining industries and its effects, there is the risk of murder.

People all over the Archipelago are organizing and working with outside groups to resist corporate tyranny and achieve justice. Throughout the years the approach of working together with communities has been dominated by leftist groups and is hierarchical in many regards. These groups tend to follow the same patterns of NGO’s and missionary aid, who enter communities, bring in new ideas, give support (depending on what “specialty” the NGO might have), and try to get people following the leftist brand of socio-political and economic solutions.

The Philippine opposition-political spectrum is predominantly composed of two blocks, Akbayan and BAYAN MUNA, which are both communist. All throughout the country, these groups have been working on anti-mining issues and have partnered with communities against mining. However, the dilemma is that people are left with little or no decision making power, since these groups are most likely to mediate, and in many occasions dictate what needs to be done.

In response to the bureaucratic, hierarchical approaches to resistance of mining, the Undangon ang Mina Network (Stop Mining Network) and our communities of support in the Philippines aim to take action by:

1. Connecting to communities of resistance (local and international).

2. Informing local groups where head offices of companies are located (such as Philex Gold Corporation in Vancouver, Canada) and set up international boycott campaigns.

3. Document corporations’ human rights abuses and environmental destruction to inform the local and global community.

4. Bring an anti-authoritarian approach to our local communities, as well as supporting the locals with what they think is the best solution for mining situations in their area.

5. Learning from exchanges with different communities and struggles.

In a nutshell, mining companies are bullies who are mostly coming from Canada, Australia, Japan, Asia, and Europe. Some of these companies’ actions include:

-Manipulating laws (through pro-development politicians) to pursue mining operations.

-Bribing local and national politicians, the police, and military forces to support their campaigns.

-Disrespecting local people’s parameters on their land and resources.

-Displacing indigenous/tribal communities by forcing them to leave their land and resources.

-Bribing local people with money, resources, and jobs.

-Threatening the stability of an area when it becomes a mining target.

-Destroying farmlands and water resources.

-Destroying forest ecosystems.


Mining in the Philippines started in pre-colonial times. In a number of regions in the Archipelago, indigenous communities mined for gold, copper and many other minerals for various day-to-day purposes. Natives from all over the Philippines used gold, pearls, agate, as well as other minerals for body ornaments, and gold was also bartered with merchants from all over Asia and Europe. Many merchants from Luzon and Jolo Islands and Brunei traveled throughout Mindanao in search of slaves and gold.

Roughly 400 years ago, the Spaniards took advantage of all the affluent mineral resources they could get. In fact, gold was the main reason why the Spanish colonized the Philippines. The Spaniards made a law called InspeciĆ³n de Minas which allowed them to inspect the existing minerals in the Archipelago.

Following Spain, Americans made strategic steps to exploit the minerals of the Philippines. In May of 1867, the U.S.A. did a geological survey, which validated the Philippines as a mineral-rich country. They issued Act 468, a law that basically gives the American government the right to claim a number of areas as “reserved areas” for future mining. The first commercial mine was in Benguet, in central Luzon, by the Benguet Mining Corporation.

In the year 1914, Surigao and parts of the Caraga Region were declared as an “Iron Reserved” area for future mining. By then, the mining industry in the Philippines was beginning to bloom and the US government took hold of whatever it could grasp, forming a Mining Bureau to regulate all potential operations in the future.

In 1921, there was a decline in large-scale mining, but many were making a living from small-scale gold mining. However, by 1933 and until 1941, gold became the dominant and most valuable mineral in the mining industry.

Under the tyranny of the Japanese, Filipinos were coerced to mine for metals in many regions of the Philippines, to be used for war weapons. This paved way for a more commercialized, exploited, and degenerated Philippines.

In the 1950’s, copper mining became successful, and was the baby of mining corporations. Large-scale copper mining reached its peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s. By the late 80’s, world demand for copper decreased because gold became of global interest again. A number of companies mining for gold in that period were forced to close operations because of law violations, resulting in a slight downturn for the industry.

Under the WTO and the IMF-WB, the neo-colonized Philippines were again coerced to adjust its economic policies to adhere to neo-liberal policies. By 1994, pro-development politicians, such as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, lobbied a mining bill which would later become the Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (This law basically puts power over land, resources, and life forms to corporations. Combined with the Regalian doctrine, a law which practically gives the government the right to own and do whatever they wish in public lands, many areas became mining hot spots).

By 1996, the Philippine’s mining industry allowed offshore companies to operate fully in the reserved areas, which created disaster in a number of places in the Philippines. In March of 1996, it was estimated that 1.6 million cubic meters of mine tailings flowed from the mine pit to the Makulapnit and Boac rivers, trapping 4,400 people in 20 villages. That incident destroyed the Boac River, as well as the downstream communities and coastal areas. Another tragedy that happened in 1998 was the Malangas Coal Corporation case in Zamboanga Del Sur,Mindanao, where an explosion occurred in the mine site, killing almost a hundred workers and injuring 35 people. In 2004, another disaster happened in Surigao Del Norte, Mindanao. That time, it was from one of the largest and longstanding mining corporations in the Philippines (the Manila Mining Corporation(MMC). Five million cubic meters of waste materials containing high levels of mercury damaged local people’s agricultural lands and temporarily poisoned the adjacent Placer Bay.

Today, hundreds of mining applications are pending to prey on the resources of the Philippines, and there are 20 major large scale mining op
erations, 10 medium scale mining operations, and more than 2,000 non-metallic small scale mining operations in existence.

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