What — me, worry?

This quote is sure to provoke the revelation of a generation gap if one were to ask kids of today about the origin of these words.

It is safe to guess that “kids” of my generation will point to Alfred Neuman, the poster boy of MAD Magazine, as the source of the quote. But it seems even that is questionable as an even much older generation can argue that the words were first used in a cartoon in 1898.

Then again since no one who was alive in 1898 would be alive today, no one from that generation could actually argue with mine.

It was with a similar “What – me, worry?” reaction that Jerry Brimo, President and CEO of Nickel Asia (NAC), responded to questions about the statements of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte on mining, specifically on mining firms operating in Mindanao (Surigao); Duterte had said that the big firms did nothing but bore holes, and that they should stop doing this.

“We do not feel alluded to,” said Brimo – who happens to be my boss in my life outside of being a commentator in this space – and that’s because NAC is one of the large mining firms that comply with the requirements of the law. And there are many requirements that apply to a large scale operator that do not apply to the small scale guys.

Like being required to rehabilitate mined out areas. Small scale miners are exempted from this requirement, but large scale miners are not.

Being required to set aside a Final Mine Closure fund and prepare a plan; large scale operators are required to do that, but not small scale miners.

Or spending what could easily amount to hundreds of millions of pesos a year for Social Development projects like building roads, schools, hospitals, housing, water systems, etc – in effect, doing what Government is supposed to be doing; again, large scale mining operators are required by the Philippine Mining Act to do that, small scale miners, not.

In the process of complying with the law, companies like NAC and its fellow Chamber of Mines members get recognized and, where merited, are awarded Presidential awards – yes, referring to the President of the Philippines himself. As the Mines and Geosciences Bureau website explains:

“The PMIEA was officially established under Executive Order No. 399 on February 03, 1997 in compliance with the policy that mineral exploration and mining operation shall be pro-environment and pro-people in sustaining wealth creation and improve quality of life and that exploration and mining operation shall be managed in an environmentally responsible manner to achieve and maintain sustainable conditions at

every stage of mineral exploration and mining operations, as well as the establishment of a functional and socially-acceptable post-disturbance land use capability. It is meant to be a fitting recognition of the private minerals sectors’ initiatives and exemplary achievements in the protection of the environment.”

The criteria are stringent, which makes taking home a Presidential award an honor.

Not only an honor, actually, but it can and should be a shield against unwarranted attacks by those who see nothing good coming out from the mining industry.

The point is this: no one in his right mind can disagree with the President when he says that miners have to look after the environment and those who are found to be irresponsible in their practices should cease operations. Are there irresponsible miners? For sure, just as there are irresponsible parents, teachers, religious, politicians, mediamen, children, humans.

But some humans – clerics, mediamen, socialites, even politicians with interesting (read: fund-raising) agenda – insist that one irresponsible miner makes everyone irresponsible. And that everyone should be shut down. That’s fine with me if the logic will apply to them: one irresponsible priest or socialite or mediaman or politician will make all of them irresponsible, for which they will shut up.

Or shot. Which, by the way, will require the use of a bullet and a weapon that cannot exist without mining.

But I digress.

The reason for Jerry Brimo’s being “unperturbed” – a word I enjoy using when I can and was happily used by Warren de Guzman of ABS-CBN in his report – is that he remains confident that if the industry is given a hard shake so that those that are irresponsible fall to the ground and wither and die, the four operating mines he oversees will remain among those considered responsible and worthy of the social license to operate they currently have.

As do most members of the Chamber of Mines. (Why only most? Don’t ask.)

One more thing: just as no one in his right mind can disagree with the incoming President on the need to tighten scrutiny on mining operators in the country – especially those whose first tongue is a foreign (Asian) language – no one in his right mind can also disagree with the point responsible miners always try to make: without responsible mining, we would still be living in caves, using stone tools to survive and missing the NBA finals because TV won’t exist. Heck – so wouldn’t the basketball goal and all!

So anyone who insists that mining IS bad and should stop absolutely and totally should be consistent and should absolutely and totally stop using anything and everything that is a product or by-product of mining: from cars and airplanes and ships and trains to cellphones, laptops TV cameras, studio lights and TV sets, utensils to household and office gadgets, hospital beds to needles and pins, houses and buildings and malls and streets and bridges, indeed almost anything and everything that is part of human life in the 21st Century.

Because if the buying of these products stops, mining will stop, too, yes?

It’s that simple-- if you believe in and live by your absolutist anti-mining principles.

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