Mining is the extraction of minerals and other geological materials of economic value from deposits on the Earth. Mining adversely affects the environment by inducing loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and contamination of surface water, groundwater, and soil. Mining can also trigger the formation of sinkholes. The leakage of chemicals from mining sites can also have detrimental effects on the health of the population living at or around the mining site.
In some countries, mining companies are expected to adhere to rehabilitation and environmental codes to ensure that the area mined is eventually transformed back into its original state. However, violations of such rules are quite common.
Air quality is adversely affected by mining operations. Unrefined materials are released when mineral deposits are exposed on the surface through mining. Wind erosion and nearby vehicular traffic cause such materials to become airborne. Lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic elements are often present in such particles. These pollutants can damage the health of people living near the mining site. Diseases of the respiratory system and allergies can be triggered by the inhalation of such airborne particles.
Mining also causes water pollution which includes metal contamination, increased sediment levels in streams, and acid mine drainage. Pollutants released from processing plants, tailing ponds, underground mines, waste-disposal areas, active or abandoned surface or haulage roads, etc., act as the top sources of water pollution. Sediments released through soil erosion cause siltation or the smothering of stream beds. It adversely impacts irrigation, swimming, fishing, domestic water supply, and other activities dependent on such water bodies. High concentrations of toxic chemicals in water bodies pose a survival threat to aquatic flora and fauna and terrestrial species dependent on them for food. The acidic water released from metal mines or coal mines also drains into surface water or seeps below ground to acidify groundwater. The loss of normal pH of water can have disastrous effects on life sustained by such water.
The creation of landscape blots like open pits and piles of waste rocks due to mining operations can lead to the physical destruction of the land at the mining site. Such disruptions can contribute to the deterioration of the area's flora and fauna. There is also a huge possibility that many of the surface features that were present before mining activities cannot be replaced after the process has ended. The removal of soil layers and deep underground digging can destabilize the ground which threatens the future of roads and buildings in the area. For example, lead ore mining in Galena, Kansas between 1980 and 1985 triggered about 500 subsidence collapse features that led to the abandonment of the mines in the area. The entire mining site was later restored between 1994 and1995.
Often, the worst effects of mining activities are observed after the mining process has ceased. The destruction or drastic modification of the pre-mined landscape can have a catastrophic impact on the biodiversity of that area. Mining leads to a massive habitat loss for a diversity of flora and fauna ranging from soil microorganisms to large mammals. Endemic species are most severely affected since even the slightest disruptions in their habitat can result in extinction or put them at high risk of being wiped out. Toxins released through mining can wipe out entire populations of sensitive species.
A landscape affected by mining can take a long time to heal. Sometimes it never recovers. Remediation efforts do not always ensure that the biodiversity of the area is restored. Species might be lost permanently.
Were officially back at our favorite time of the market cycle. The time when new cohorts of journalists clearly annoyed that Bitcoin, no matter how many times its been declared dead, still refuses to die find themselves forced to cover their least favorite and most confusing technology.
Ill spend the remainder of this article explaining this curious circumstance. Its a bit of a journey, but a fun and interesting one offering the potential of some real aha! moments. Its not too hard to get to the bottom of this, but it does require a synthesis of knowledge and context that is somewhat rare to observe in the wild, so to speak. Ill try to collect all these necessities in one single piece heres the plan:
First, we need to establish some contextual groundwork. This is a critical step, because lack of clarity on what Bitcoin is and is not, has the potential to muddle an entire subsequent analysis. Its kinda like looking at a rocket on a launchpad and mistaking it for a skyscraper. Youd consider it ugly, useless, and horribly misplaced. In that light, it seems stupid. But as soon as you know the thing is meant to fly into space, everything immediately makes a lot more sense.
Next, we need to understand the role of electricity in the Bitcoin settlement system. Electricity comes at a cost, and we, therefore, need to make sure we understand what Bitcoin gives in return for this expense. Who are the people actually paying for this electricity, and why are they willing to do so? These are important questions.
Then we need to consider that the concept of waste is subjective. While I personally think the energy directed by our society at following and broadcasting the life of the Kardashians is an utter and total waste, others disagree and their choices are none of my business. We have elected to live in a society where people are free to make their own choices, and there are good reasons for that.
Ill then show you how the concept of Bitcoin as a threat to a renewable future actually has things exactly upside down. Far from being a blocker of a decarbonated future, Bitcoin mining can play an invaluable part as a building block in such a system. It is actually an incredible opportunity for us to increase the share of intermittent renewable generation in our electricity grids, without ruining the economics.
Finally, Ill make the argument that while reducing our carbon footprint is a good idea, reducing our energy consumption is not. Energy consumption is the key to our prosperity and progression up the Kardashev Scale. It is in our interest to consume more energy not less.
As you might already suspect by now, theres actually a lot more depth to this issue than the average news story will have led you to believe. And when applied to the overall picture, that depth just might cause a significant shift of perspective. So lets dig in.
Bitcoin is a settlement system like FedWire, it is not a payments aggregator like Visa. I constantly see Bitcoin compared to Visa, MasterCard, or PayPal, and this is the main source of mathematical atrocities whereby Bitcoins overall electricity cost is divided by its transactions and then compared to something its not. Energy use per settlement transaction is a nonsensical metric by which to judge Bitcoins energy use.
Just like the 800,000 or so daily FedWire transactions are not a good measure of the total amount of daily Dollar (USD) transactions, Bitcoins 325,000 or so daily transactions are not a good measure of the total amount of daily bitcoin (BTC/XBT) transactions. Most bitcoin transactions are not visible. They take place inside the payment aggregation systems of exchanges, on the Lightning network, and yes, even inside of actual aggregators like PayPal, Square, or MasterCard. Only periodically are they settled onto the Bitcoin blockchain as visible transactions.
Solutions like this are referred to as network layering. This is a tried and tested approach to separating casual retail transactions from heavier settlement transactions and it is exactly how we already do things in the fiat monetary and payment systems. In such a system, the base layer, like FedWire (or Bitcoin), only acts as the final arbitrator of settlement transactions, everything else, and that is the vast majority of all transactions, happen in higher payment aggregation layers, which are often entirely different systems.
As you probably know by now, Bitcoin adds new transactions to its ledger every ten minutes or so. These batches of additions to the transaction record are called blocks and they form an ever-elongating chain containing Bitcoins entire transaction history. Network-wide agreement on this single shared transaction history is what allows a decentralized monetary system to exist. Without it, we need a central authority to decide which transactions came in what order.
Electricity enters the picture during the block addition process. Youll seldom hear it explained like this, but Bitcoin uses electricity for a relatively simple purpose: To prove, based on an objective metric independent of the system itself, in a way that anyone can verify for themselves, that a certain amount of time has passed between a new block and its predecessor. As a fun fact, consider that Bitcoins creator never once used the word blockchain. He called it a timechain.
This model of decentralized agreement is so revolutionary within the field of computer science that it has been named after the creator of Bitcoin. It is called Nakamoto Consensus and the technique used to achieve it is called Proof-of-Work. In this process, the electricity does the actual work, and the proof is the presentation of a rare hash function output which could only have been found by repetitive guesswork, proving the input of work.
For those who remember high school physics, work is a time-dependent concept. If work has been done, time must have passed. Via this fundamental relationship, Proof-of-Work enables the Bitcoin network to cooperate on a decentralized clock, which is what enables its otherwise uncoordinated participants to agree on a shared history of transactions.
So long as enough time has passed since the last block, as proven by the input work, a new block can be added to the chain (so long as it doesnt break any Bitcoin rules). The consideration by all network participants of the chain with the most accumulated work as the correct and agreed-upon chain is a fundamental consensus rule of Bitcoin.
Using Proof-of-Work as a decentralized clock also generates an excellent side-effect. It makes counterfeiting and record tampering prohibitively costly. Writing a fraudulent history is as costly as writing a true one, and so in order to create a dishonest timechain, a malicious actor must expend more energy on the task than the entire honest network combined.
With that as context, another way to think about Bitcoins overall electricity use is like this: When you hear phrases like Bitcoin uses as much electricity as Norway, what this means in practice is that if those pesky conspiring Norgies wanted to get together and mess with Bitcoins transaction record, even if they mustered the countrys entire electricity supply, they would stand absolutely no chance of pulling it off.
Now, this is actually a bit of an understatement, but for a global, freely available, politically independent monetary system, the ability to resist country-sized attackers is an incredible and obviously necessary feature, not some bug that needs fixing.
Now, this is actually a bit of an understatement, but for a global, freely available, politically independent monetary system, the ability to resist country-sized attackers is an incredible and obviously necessary feature, not some bug that needs fixing.
And with that, were actually at the crux of this discussion. The entire debate around Bitcoins usage of energy fundamentally rests on whether or not one recognizes the need for a politically independent monetary system as a voluntary and freely available alternative to permissioned and often outright weaponized government monies.
If your answer to that is no, then no argument would suffice to convince you that Bitcoin is anything other than a complete waste, whether it consumes one GWh per year or a million. However, in such a case there should also be nothing to worry about: If Bitcoin serves no purpose and is a bubble, then surely no one will be willing to pay its electricity costs over time and it will die, taking its consumption with it. Problem solved, no?
If on the other hand, the answer is yes, the story is quite different. Because in return for its electricity consumption, Bitcoin provides a set of unique monetary properties to its usersproperties that cannot be replicated by politically dependent monies nor by physical commodity monies.
I could go on, but it should be clear at this point that the utility of such a system is enormous, the global market for its services is huge, and the energy required to run it is the necessary cost of achieving these properties.
Some people value mascara, others value junk food, others value watching the Kardashians, others again value flying to exotic places for their holidays, and yet others value going to stadiums to watch grown men in spandex pretend to fight. I happen to only belong to one of those groups, but its a big world out there and who am I to tell you what to do with your life.
Nowhere else in our society do we apply similar scrutiny to the moral legitimacy of energy usage. Neither in private consumption nor in the production of goods or services. This is true even though many other global uses of energy are clearly much less necessary or morally defensible than Bitcoin. And there is a good reason for this.
Try to take the premise to its necessary consequence. If this is to be an approach to reducing our carbon footprint, where exactly do we draw the line? Who gets to decide? And how long until you find yourself dragged into the streets and put up against the wall for some unspeakable consumption crime?
In fact, perhaps those who feel righteously indignant about [whatever product or service], and consider it another consumerist evil to be morally assaulted, should have a long hard think about the effects of global deflationary money on mindless credit-driven consumerism and its detrimental effects on the environment.
At the end of the day, calling Bitcoin wasteful requires one to either: not understand the function of mining as it relates to Bitcoins provided properties; not acknowledge the usefulness of Bitcoin at all; or, acknowledge some value, but consider it insufficient to justify the cost. The latter two of which amount to an outright dismissal of the possibility that others might value something different than yourself, or the belief that your value judgments are somehow more important than theirs.
It is not even possible to argue against any such positions. They are either based on a lack of comprehension which must first be rectified, or on fundamental disagreements about individual freedom and liberty. The former will slowly take care of itself as protocol-level knowledge of Bitcoin continues to grow among the population, but the latter is a much deeper issue and something each individual has the responsibility to consider before advocating for the suppression of other peoples freedom or the marginalization of their voluntary choices.
This is where people tend to get hung up. Pretty much everyone agrees that carbon pollution is a serious problem, and the fear of causing significant damage to the ability of our species to sustain itself within the bounds of our planet is a cause for worry in a lot of people. Being a highly transparent system, it is therefore relatively easy to have a surface-level look at Bitcoin, calculate its power consumption, realize that it is significant, and then become fearful of its environmental impact.
The problem with this type of approach, however, is that it tends to conflate dirty electricity production with agnostic electricity consumption, while simultaneously and necessarily disregarding any and all utility. From the people applying this approach, were told Bitcoin generates ungodly amounts of externalities through CO2 emissions. Well, yes and no.
Yes, in that the electricity Bitcoin uses is the same as the electricity that powers everything else in the world, and that production is unfortunately still dominated by fossil fuels, which generate negative externalities.
No, in that, unlike pretty much every other industry, Bitcoin mining is extremely competitive, but even more importantly, mobile, and therefore tends to cluster around the unwanted (read: cheapest) energy sources of the world. These sources happen to be largely composed of stranded or otherwise underutilized renewables, particularly hydropower. And while its use of renewable energy is not by any means exclusive, it is still somewhere between double and quadruple the global residential, commercial, and industrial average. So while Bitcoin might use the same amount of electricity as the Netherlands, its comparative carbon footprint would be somewhere between half and a quarter.
The other critical thing to understand is that Bitcoin is as green as an electric car. Nothing about Bitcoin requires emissions. It will take whatever electricity you feed it. If the world goes green, so does Bitcoin.
What detractors are effectively doing then, is dressing our carbon pollution problem up in a Bitcoin costume, shouting profanities at it, and beating it with a stick. This is not an effective strategy for reducing our emissions, it is completely unhelpful scapegoating. Barring a reversion to pre-electricity technological eras or otherwise reducing our standard of living, the only strategy that can achieve that end is building out more renewable generation.
Rather than decrying Bitcoin as some archetypal representative of our carbon pollution problem, we really should be paying closer attention here because as it turns out, Bitcoin mining can actually be a critical building block in a carbon-minimized future. And its an opportunity wed be absolutely silly to miss out on.
Anyone whos done their homework with regards to the problems posed by grids with high penetration of intermittent renewables, such as solar and wind, will be acutely aware of the issues they suffer both from over-and underproduction.
Underproduction and the common necessity of fossil fuel-powered generation is something pretty much everyone understands because it represents the standard situation in nearly every place on Earth. In such areas, we require a standby capacity of fossil fuel power plants to step in when renewable generation and power consumption happen on different schedules. This is less than ideal and drives up the cost of electricity.
We cannot decide when the wind or clouds show up so we can never match the pattern of wind and solar generation to our power usage. This means that if we are to mainly, or at the very least, significantly rely on such generation we need to build out enough capacity that the lowest level of intermittent renewables production is at or higher than our peak demand. That means that most of the time wed be producing electricity way in excess of our needs. Unless we can find a buyer for this electricity such a system would simply not be economically viable.
Miners, being supremely mobile and flexible, can act as demand response systems. They can sit right near the renewable resource (even moving with the seasons) in question avoiding the need to excessively beef up grids and dynamically consume excess energy whenever more is being produced than the non-mining market needs (meaning prices are low). This allows for immediate monetization of energy that would otherwise be wasted, driving down overall electricity costs. In other words, it can act as a monetary battery.
Conversely, whenever electricity production is low compared to the needs of the non-mining market (meaning prices are high), miners can be contracted to shut down, directing the electricity to other sources of demand (who are also in general willing to pay more). This ensures reliability for critical infrastructure when production is strained or demand is unusually high.
Miners are already performing this task in Texas ERCOT power market and more are at the planning stage. One can only wonder if the recent Texan grid strain may have been alleviated if peak power production capacity was higher, a goal that is much more economically feasible in the presence of a large demand response capacity.
A similar dynamic is taking place on the other side of the world, in China. Over the last 20 years, China has built out the largest capacity of hydroelectric power generation in the world. Much of this capacity is concentrated in the mountainous southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan which receive both river runoffs from the vast Tibetan Plateau, and copious, but seasonal rainfalls.
This buildout was heavily fuelled by state subsidies aiming to make China the worlds premier aluminum smelter. That goal was achieved, and more, leaving some Chinese provinces with vast overcapacities in their hydroelectric generation. Curtailment of hydroelectric power has been particularly bad during the rainy season when dams have flows that can produce at levels multiple times higher than in the dry season.
Miners take advantage of this state of affairs by moving entire mining operations in and out of these provinces in line with the rainy season. During these periods, miners take otherwise wasted energy off the hands of overproducing dams, improving their economics while securing Bitcoin. When the dry season hits and electricity prices rise, they pick up their operations and move them to other provinces where prices are lower (during the dry season, Chinas policy of state subsidies to coal power plants often make such sources the cheapest alternative).
Bitcoins ability to be mined literally anywhere in the world where theres an internet connection has spurred the emergence of another fascinating industry subset. Oil producers have realized that mining offers the opportunity to monetize their unwanted dry gas, on site. This avoids flaring, and to a shockingly large degree, even direct venting of methane into the atmosphere, causing a reduction of harmful emissions and lower energy prices.
Dry natural gas, or methane, is around 40 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. This means that every cubic foot of methane that is combusted into CO2 as opposed to leaking directly into the atmosphere has a large net negative impact on the greenhouse effect.
Whats important to realize in this context is that even when methane is flared, the combustion is often inefficient due to the effects of wind on the flaring tower. In windy conditions, more than half of the methane can escape directly into the atmosphere, but when the gas is combusted in the controlled environment of engines, little to no methane is released.
Large international oil and gas companies are waking up to this opportunity. A good illustration is last years investment into Crusoe Energy by Norwegian energy giant Equinor, famous for their long-term ESG focus, and more recent announcements by Russian major Gazprom Neft that they too are reducing their flaring waste by monetizing gas directly through Bitcoin mining.
Every single step change in human development has required more energy put towards technological improvements than its previous phase. Consuming and channeling energy into useful work is the very foundation of modern civilization. Sure, a horse uses a lot less energy than a car, but no one in their right mind would argue that we abandon the technology of automobiles to reduce our emissions. Cars vastly improve our standard of living and free up human time for other useful work. The solution is obviously to ensure as many cars as possible are electric, like Bitcoin, and make the generation green.
Our problem as a civilization isnt the amount of energy we consume. Consuming lots of energy is a good thing and raises us ever further up the Kardashev Scale of technological advancement. Our problem is the manner with which we produce it. This should be glaringly obvious to any economically-oriented thinker.
Decrying Bitcoin for wasting energy is nothing but a subjective value judgement, and it is an opinion I should be very much interested in seeing expressed right to the face of millions of people using Bitcoin as a monetary life raft in their ongoing battles for basic human rights, economic liberty, political freedom and democracy.
The overall point were making here is that there is a lot more to this topic than you might have initially thought. Not only is mining by definition not wasteful to the people who value it perhaps for reasons you may never know or fully appreciate but when you look a little deeper into how this industry actually works, incredible opportunities emerge and it becomes clear that Bitcoin is by no means the climate sinner you might have been led to believe it to be.
For the size of its energy requirement, the emissions of the power production it draws from are comparatively small between half and a quarter the global norm. Meanwhile, mining is reducing global methane emissions, a fact that tends to be conveniently forgotten by detractors.
If we hope to actually get anywhere in solving our sustainability problem, we are better served by investing more heavily in renewable energy, not in condemning those that use it to solve their problems. Bitcoin mining has the potential to play an important role in this transformation by solving one of the largest outstanding problems in a renewable grid architecture. Unless were all willing to spend just a little more time and effort analyzing this issue in necessary depth, we risk missing out on an incredible and time-sensitive opportunity.
 This is upper case Bitcoin, the protocol, network, and monetary system. Not to be confused with lower case bitcoin (BTC/XBT), the native asset of Bitcoin.  Bitcoin transactions can have multiple outputs so total transactions is not a perfect measure of total settlement transactions. A bank or financial institution can for example use a single Bitcoin transaction to pay hundreds or even thousands of clients.  And this doesnt even consider the trouble theyd have getting their hands on more hardware than the entire honest network of miners, which imposes a significant additional cost. _____
Learn more: - Proof-of-Disagreement: Bitcoin's Work vs. Ethereum's Planned Staking - This Is How Satoshi Nakamoto Defended Bitcoin Mining & Converted A Skeptic - Ethereum Moves Ahead With Plans for Earlier Transition to Proof-of-Stake - Bitcoin Mining in 2021: Growth, Consolidation, Renewables, and Regulation - Bitcoin Miners Buy Oversupplied Energy, Turn To Renewables - Nic Carter
Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan, AB-BSE, MA, EdD Graduate School of De La Salle Araneta University, Malabon, Philippines President, AcademiX2Business Consultancy, Inc. Makati City, Philippines [email protected] www//emilianohudtohan.com International Seminar on the Socio-Economic and Environmental Impact of Mining Paper to be delivered at the University of Pejuang, Makassar, Konawe, Sulawesi, Indonesia November 24, 2015 Edition November 10, 2015
Social impact is seen from the view point of civil society whose interest are directly affected by the mining industry. There are internal stakeholders whose economic welfare must be addressed and at the same time as key human resource in mining production whose health and wellness must be promoted. The external stakeholders are the community and the environment. The heightened awareness of climate change, global warning and the occurrence of mining disasters like that of Marcopper and Philiex continue to haunt the mining in the Philippines. The NGOs and religious groups remain extremely watchful and active in this regard. Thus, the economic impact of mining has been deterred not only by civil society but mainly disharmonious policies of the national and local government. In 2014, the mining industry employed only 235,000 workers; its gross value of P84.2 billion contributed to merely .7 percent of GDP (Oxford Business Group reports .9 percent), a significant drop from P299.5 billion or 3.3 percent of GDP in 2013.The Executive Order issued in 2014 further restricted mining operations. The last say on mining operations in the Philippines appears to be the clearance of the local government which the city and barangay councils approval have to be secured. The political impact refers to governance. Politics in a young democracy like the Philippines has been used as a power to gain common interest of certain sectors and not necessarily common good. Common interest can be the alignment of the business interest with the personal gain of those who hold power and authority. The overall assessment of the mining industry in the Philippines is that it has declined because of politics and governance issues, environmental and civic issues brought about by the new mandate for triple bottom line, which highlights care for the planet. But many are hopeful that its economic potential will be achieved through tripartite effort of business, civil society and government.
This is my third visit to Konawe, Sulawesi, Indonesia. The first two were at Unaaha, Kendari in 2009 where I delivered a paper on creating a New Framework for Sustainable Development and in 2011 at Unaaha again I read a paper on Sustainable Mining Management and the Next Generation (Hudtohan, 2009, 2011). This kinship I feel is probably due to the close bond of the Philippines with the rest of Southeast Asia during the reign of the Sri Vidjaya Empire and the Madjapahit Empire. In fact, the island where I come from is the Visayas whose name comes from Sri Vidjaya. My father sported a bansil (gold-laden tooth with moon) and tattoo in his arm.
The mining industry in the Philippines is highly politicalized. When Benigno Aquino, Jr. became president of the Republic, he included mining as one of the eleven priority areas for foreign investment. Towards the end of his term in May 2016, OceanaGold Phils. Inc. chair Jose Leviste noted at the Mine Safety and Environment Symposium that low world metal prices and the administrations economic fiscal re\gime were the two primary threats to the industry; he likewise suggested flexing their political muscle to support candidates who are pro-mining (Inquirer, 2015e) As Philippine national election will be held in May 2016..Mining as an industry is used by our Vice President Jejomar Binay, who attended the annual summit of the local mining industry, as a campaign platform to get the businessmen and investors on his side as he runs for presidency (Inquirer, 2015a). Senator Grace Poe, another presidentiable begged off because of her national address announcing her presidency. Former interior and local government secretary Mar Roxas also begged off to speak but sent a representative in his behalf. After missing out on the economic benefits of the last five years, the local mining industry is excited to cross to the 2016 with a positive outlook under a new administration (Inquirer, 2015b).
Awareness of the plight of the miners was shown in the Europa film festival at Shangri-La Hotel Complex in Makati City (Inquirer, 2015b). Pride, the movie, is about the mining events (1984-1085) prompted the Margaret Thatcher government to shut down 20 uneconomic coal mines. On October 1, 2015, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (2015c) reported that the government failed to protect the child miners. The New York based Human Rights Watch noted that nearly 5.5 million work children working in absolutely terrifying conditions in small-scale gold mines. On October 25, 2015, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (2015d) reported the four houses fell into a gaping hole that gave way in a mining town in Itogon, Benguet. This happened after international typhoon Koppol passed the Philippines.
The objective of this paper to share the Philippine mining experience and its socio-economic and political impact on life of the Filipinos. The social aspect refers to the internal and external stakeholders of the industry; the economic aspect directly bears upon the profitability of the industry and its contribution to the national economy; and the political aspect refers to the layers of political governance and also the politics at the national and local level of Philippine Government. In addition this paper gives a brief history of mining in the Philippines and it likewise presents an update of the socio-economic-political issues related to mining.
Methodology It presents a historical review of related literature on the mining industry. History is relevant only if it is used to find solutions to current issues and problems (Torre, 2015; Skinner, 1997; Elton, 1967; Bloch, 1949). .It made use of retrospect-prospect approach (Gonzalez, Luz, J & Tirol, 1984; Hudtohan, 2005; Lei, 2015). The socio-economic impact of mining is viewed from Kanters (1999) perspective that all social problems are economic problems. The overall solution to the mining issues can come to a resolution by applying the tripartite principle of action (Perlas, 2005; Etzkowitz, 2008; Albareda, .Lozano, Tencati, Midttun, & Perrini, 2008).
Based on the study of Patrick Caolie (2015), mining is the most logical economic driver for the Philippines because agricultural production is down and rice even cost three times more compared to imports from Vietnam and Thailand. But the Aquino government instead relied on the remittances of migrant workers and the business process outsourcing (Inquirer, 2015e).
The Economy of the Philippines is the 39th largest in the world, according to 2014 International Monetary Fund statistics, and is also one of the emerging markets. The Philippines is considered as a newly industrialized country, which has been transitioning from one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing. In 2014, the GDP by Purchasing power parity was estimated to be at $692.223 billion. [World Economic Outlook]. According to Index Mundi (2014), agriculture contributed 11.2 percent, industry 31.6 percent and services 57.2 percent. The labor force of 41.33 million (2013 est.) is distributed by occupation in agriculture (32%), industry (15%) and services (53%).
In 2015, there are about 12 million Filipinos around the world and they contribute US$40 billion to the Philippine economy it is about 13 percent of the national GDP (Wooton, 2015). But in 2014, the mining industry employed only 235,000 workers; its gross value of P84.2 billion contributed to merely .7 percent of GDP, a significant drop from P299.5 billion or 3.3 percent of GDP in 2013 (Mining Industry Statistics, Mines and Geoscience Bureau, 2015).
About 60% of total mining production is accounted for by non-metallic minerals, which contributed substantially to the industrys steady output growth between 1993 and 1998, with the value of production growing 58%. In 1999, however, mineral production declined 16% to $793 million. Mineral exports have generally slowed since 1996. Led by copper cathodes, Philippine mineral exports amounted to $650 million in 2000, barely up from 1999 levels. Low metal prices, high production costs, lack of investment in infrastructure, and a challenge to the new mining law have contributed to the mining industrys overall decline.
The industry rebounded starting in late 2004 when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an important law permitting foreign ownership of Philippines mining companies. However, the DENR has yet to approve the revised Department Administrative Order (DAO) that will provide the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), the specific part of the 1994 Mining Act that allows 100% foreign ownership of Philippines mines.
The Philippines boasts some of the worlds vastest precious metals reserves, valued at around $840bn at 2010 prices. In 2013 the Philippines was tied with Indonesia as the largest nickel producer in the world, producing some 440,000 tonnes each. The countrys vast and largely untapped mining potential will continue to draw strong interest from foreign and domestic actors despite decreasing investment in the short term. Although overall output and revenue are being sustained by existing operations, new investment continues to lag, as mining companies wait out the finalization of new mining regulations. The question is when will the regulatory framework catch up with the demand. (Oxford Business Group, 2015).
1. The progress of the mining industry in the Philippines is proceeding at an extremely slow pace in 2014, posting a modest growth, contributing just 0.9% to national GDP. Contribution of mining and quarrying increasing only marginally in recent years, from P72.05bn ($1.62bn) in 2012 (equivalent to 1% of GDP) to P72.9bn ($1.64bn) in 2013 and P75.48bn ($1.7bn) in 2014, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority National Statistical Coordination Board (PSA-NSCB). New mining investment continues to lag, as mining companies wait out the finalization of new mining regulations, which have dragged on since 2011.
2. All metallic mining has been accounted for by large-scale mines since 2011, due to a change in tax collection practices that essentially eliminated small-scale gold mining operations from the formal sector. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Philippine central bank, the gross production value from such operations came to just P1.2bn ($27m) in 2012 and P300m ($6.75m) in 2013 a significant decline from the P42.9bn ($965.25m) and P34.1bn ($767.25m) in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
3. By contrast, data from the MGB saw large-scale metallic mining steadily increase its gross production value over the period, from P69.1bn ($1.55bn) in 2010 to P88bn ($1.98bn), P97.8bn ($2.2bn) and P99bn ($2.23bn) in the following years. The growth in the value of the sector in past years is thanks to higher output from existing mines, as only a handful of new mines have come on-line of late due to legislative delays that have slowed sector investment to a trickle.
4. In early 2014, there were two new commercial-scale gold-copper projects and the resumption of another precious metals output, in addition to a slight year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in production, from P7.62bn ($171.45m) in the first quarter of 2013 to P8.63bn ($194.18m) in 2014. Substantial growth in copper and nickel production helped push base metal output in the first quarter of 2014 to P13.35bn ($300.38m), up from P11.15bn ($250.88m) one year earlier. The bulk of increasing gold production is due to two new operations the high-grade gold-copper Didipio Mine and copper-gold Padcal mine which ramped up operations at the end of 2013. Operated by Australias OceanaGold, the Didipio mine located about 270 km north of Manila on the island of Luzon
5. Established Producers. Well-established Toledo copper mine in Cebu helped to bolster output with 41.6m kg of copper concentrate in 2013, a 2% y-o-y increase from the 40.9m kg produced in 2012, according to company reports. As a subsidiary of the Australian Atlas Mining through its domestic operator Carmen Copper Corporation, Toledo is one of the countrys largest copper mines, with estimated mineral resources of 1.43m tonnes at 0.29% copper grade and 4.1m tonnes of copper metal at 0.15% cut-off grade.
6. Co-O Gold Project of Mindanao Mineral Processing and Refining increased production 19% from 494 kg to 588 kg. The output from the Benguet Corporations Acupan Contract Mining Project also more than doubled y-o-y, from 92 kg to 188 kg. These rises combined to more than offset declines in other areas, such as from the shuttering of Greenstone Resources Corporations Siana gold project and the Rapu-Rapu polymetallic project, which had been producing around 182 kg and 201 kg, respectively, as recently as the first quarter of 2013.
1. The closure of the Padcal mine by Philex Mining, from April 2012 to March 2013 limited production at the site in Benguet to 99,802 oz. of gold in 2013, up from 71,297 oz. in 2012, but 29% less than the 140,113 oz. recorded in 2011. Increased throughput of higher-ore grades boosted copper output by 46% from 10.14m kg in 2012 to 14.77m kg in 2013, but was down 14% from the 17.25m kg seen in 2011. According to data from the MGB, the mine produced 28,995 oz. of gold in the first quarter 2014, a 247% rise over the 8360 oz. mined the previous year. Copper production likewise improved, increasing by more than three-fold from 4393 tonnes to 18,052 tonnes of concentrate.
2. The 2012 closure came as a result of typhoon rains that caused one of the tailing storage pits to overflow, discharging some 20m tonnes of silt into the Balog Creek and Agno River and resulting in fines of P188.6m ($4.24m). According to company estimates, the total reserves of the Padcal mine covered by mineral agreements are spread out over an area of 13,492 ha and amount to around 65.8m tonnes of copper and gold grades of 0.20% and 0.40 grams per tonnes, resulting in recoverable resources of 108.7m kg of copper and 627,000 oz. of gold.
3. The closure of Siana and Rapu-Rapu also significantly affected the countrys overall silver production, as the two projects had been contributing some 460 kg and 2709 kg, respectively, to the segments total output of 9629 kg as of the first quarter of 2013. The only significant silver mines to boost output over the period were Padcal, where production rose by a factor of more than three, to 753 kg, and the Carmen mining area of Toledo, which doubled output to 441 kg.
4. The nickel industry: The countrys existing nickel mines continue to ship out vast quantities of raw ore, primarily to China, where it is processed into nickel pig iron used in Chinese stainless steel plants. In 2013 the Philippines was tied with Indonesia as the largest nickel producer in the world, though the latter banned exports of the metal in 2014 in an effort to promote local industry. This was a boon for other nickel producers like the Philippines, as nickel commodity prices rose dramatically from less than $14,000 per tonne on the London Metals Exchange at end-2013 to peak at over $21,000 per tonne in May 2014 before receding. The Philippines and Indonesia each produced approximately 440,000 tonnes of nickel in 2013, according to data from the US Geological Survey. The Philippines had increased production from 424,000 tonnes in 2012, with reserves estimated at 1.1m tonnes.
5. Holding pattern: Despite the Philippines veritable stockpile of mineral wealth, the country has yet to take full advantage of its natural resources as a result of uncertainty over mining regulations. At the heart of the matter is Executive Order 79 (EO 79), which was first issued in 2011 with the intention of clarifying inconsistencies in existing mining regulations primarily governed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
6. However, four years on, EO 79 has yet to make a substantial impact on the sector, as its accompanying implementation legislation has remained incomplete. This is largely due to different interests struggling to reach an agreement on a host of issues, including environmental regulations, transparency, the role of local government units (LGUs), the structure of exploratory and production leases, and taxation .
7. Exploration: Despite the challenges of obtaining exploration permits (EPs), mining firms continue to show considerable interest in the sector. After the moratorium on EPs was lifted in 2013, the MGB had received some 130 applications for exploration as of October 2014, sought after as a placeholder to secure land in the hopes that the legislative morass will be resolved prior to the permits expiration. Depending on how accommodating the government is in approving EP applications, exploration activity could begin to pick up again after the number of active EPs fell from 53 in early 2013 to 36 by July 2014, according the MGB.
1. One point of contention is the need for stronger political will by the national government over the involvement of LGUs in large-scale mining projects. While LGUs have the authority to issue small-scale mining permits, they can also block federally approved, large-scale mining projects by enacting their own conflicting legislation, such as a ban on open-pit mining. While the EO 79 was designed in part to address the inconsistency between the national mining law and LGU ordinances, in practice this has not happened.
2. It is likely that a move by the national government to limit the involvement of LGUs in large-scale mining will meet with strong resistance from LGUs that hold sway over operations planned in their territories and are often backed by influential interests, including the Catholic Church and environmental groups. Several projects remain on hold as a result of local ordinances notably, the Tampakan Copper-Gold project. Developed by Glencore Xtrata and Indofil, the mine is valued at around $5.9bn, making it the single largest foreign direct investment in the country to date. However, Tampakan remains in limbo due to an open-pit mine ban enacted by an LGU in South Cotabato back in 2010.
3. Mapping exercise: Heavy geographical restrictions are also being codified into federal regulation in the form of a no-go zone map, delineating areas where mining operations are forbidden owing to social or environmental restrictions. Released in mid-2013 by the Mining Industry Coordinating Councils technical working group, the zone map reduced the total land area previously open to extractive activities by some 50%. As a result, around 4.5m ha of land with high mineral content was ruled off limits due to criteria like the presence of tourism sites, agricultural land (including non-producing land), marine sanctuaries and island ecosystems. However, after mining advocates protested that the new map effectively nullified the majority of previously approved permits for exploration, the government agreed to revisit it and was still in the process of redrawing the boundaries as of early 2015.
4. After years of debate, compromise and hand wringing over the implementation of EO79, the order could still be rescinded. Unlike laws passed by Congress, executive orders can be easily revoked. With a presidential election on the horizon, there is a distinct possibility that EO79 could be modified or scrapped altogether.
5. Transparency: One of the subjects covered by EO79 that has been gaining traction in recent years is the domestic implementation of standards from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), designed to open up the books of both mining companies and the government to public scrutiny. As of February 2015, some 32 countries had been deemed compliant with EITI standards, while another 48 countries were in the process of implementing its framework.
6. EITI certification is intended to alleviate public distrust of the government and mining companies, which often struggle with negative perceptions arising from past incidences of pollution from mines and oil fields. It will also open up the governments books to allow the collection and distribution of revenues derived from extractive industries to be traced. The transparency afforded by the process will facilitate more consistent benchmarking, fostering a more accurate and objective picture of the sectors actual operations, in addition to taxes paid and government revenue streams.
7. The Philippines officially became an EITI candidate country in May 2013, and has since been working with stakeholders to compile its official validation report, which will be submitted to the EITI for review. The local response to this voluntary initiative has been largely positive, with 40 mining companies having signed a disclosure waiver as of late 2014.
The mining history of the Philippines is presented in retrospect from the 21st century going back to the 12th century of the Maharlikhan period. As early as the 10th century, the Laguna copper plate dated 900 A.D. attest to the fact that the Maharlikhans prior to the Muslim (1478) conquest in Southeast Asia , Spanish (1521) colonization, and American (1898) governance, the Filipino were already trading using gold as a means of business and trading transactions. Part of the Spanish and American colonization was motivated by economic pursuit and exploring the minerals in the Philippines was a major activity.
21st Century. In 2012, President Aquino signs EO79 institutionalizing reforms in the mining industry. Section 2 states that The Government in general, and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) in particular, in coordination with concerned LGUs, shall ensure that environmental standards in mining, as prescribed by the various mining and environmental laws, rules, and regulations, shall be fully and strictly enforced, and appropriate sanctions meted out against violators thereof. In line with the above, only those who are able to strictly comply with all the pertinent requirements shall be eligible for the grant of mining rights, pursuant to the applicable provisions of RA No. 7942
Salient features: The mining policys areas of coverage include (i) mining in general; (ii) effect on existing mineral agreements; (iii) economic provisions (revenue generation); (iv) environmental protection; (v) small scale mining; and (vi) administrative provisions. In the same year, Philiex Mining was responsible for tailings disaster, which many observers assessed as surpassing the Marcopper disaster of 1995.
In 2004, President Arroyo signs EO 270 and Section 1. Declaration of Policy states that, It shall be the policy of the Government to promote responsible mineral resources operation, development and utilization, in order to enhance economic growth, in a manner that adheres to the principles of sustainable development and with due regard for justice and equity, sensitivity to the culture of the Filipino people and respect for the Philippine sovereignty. In the same year, the Supreme Court declares the Mining Act constitutional
20th Century Period. In 1997, under President Ramos the Indigenous Peoples Right Act was promulgated to protect the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs). Section 2b states that The State shall protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural wellbeing and shall recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain. The aggressive development of the mining industry became a threat to those who lived in their ancestral domains.
1995 President Ramos RA 7942 Philippine Mining Act. Section 2 Declaration of Policy states that All mineral resources in public and private lands within the territory and exclusive economic zone of the Republic of the Philippines are owned by the State. It shall be the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of government and the private sector in order to enhance national growth in a way that effectively safeguards the environment and protect the rights of affected communities. This was the year Marcopper caused a disastrous environmental damage and health problems to the mining communities.
In 1991 President Aquino RA 7076 Peoples Small Scale Mining Act intended to promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nations wealth and natural resources. It also stipulated the conditions for operationalizing the peoples right to small-scale mining specifying which public and private lands can be used.
In 1984, Presidential Decree 899 established the small-scale mining as a new dimension in mineral development and defined it as a specific activity subject to rules and regulations regarding government permits and mandatory sale of recovered gold to the Central Bank of the Philippines and its authorized representatives (Israel & Astrot, 2005).
In 1974, under Martial Law, Presidential Decree 463 became the 4th mining law. From 1980 1990, the mining industry started to decline and this was a period of the Dark Period of mining because of the control of Marcos cronies. Likewise, it did not have any provision on small-scale mining.
American Period. In the post-war era, Philippines became independent and the Parity Rights Amendment and Laurel Langley Agreement resulted to: Filipinization of mining industry, rehabilitation of gold mines in the 1940s, copper was started to be explored in the 1950s, large scale open pit mining and low-grade copper were introduced, and the period 1960-1980 was the Golden Age of Philippine Mining.
America in the 20th century has an expanding monopolistic capitalism and the dominance of the corporations. Their industrial system needed raw materials and base metals. The US Government adopted the policy of Monometallism and the Philippine Bill of 1902 became the second Philippine Mining Law. After the President Emilio Aquinaldo surrendered to the Americans, the US Military 49ers remained in the Philippines and became the vanguards of the mines in Cordillera. In 1907, Benguet Mines was established and subsequently 17 other gold mines were opened in Baguio District. In 1936 the Commonwealth Act of 136 became the 3rd Philippine Mining Law. This legislative act did not have any provision on small-scale mining since it was not yet practiced extensively.
Mahalikhan Period. Before 1478 Muslim dominance in Southeast Asia (Majul, 1999), the Philippine islands part of the Royal Kingdom of Maharlikha (www.rumormillnews.com/pdfs/The-Untold-Story-Kingdom-of-Maharlik hans.pdf) under the Srivijaya empire that ruled from 683-1286 (Munoz, 2006) and the Majapahit Empire that ruled from 1293-1500 (www.rumormillnew.com/pdf/The-untold-story-of-Maharlikans.pdf). According to the Nagarakretagama (Desawarana, 1365), the Majapahit empire stretched from Sumatra to New Guinea and it included present day Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand, Sulu Archipelago, Manila, and East Timor (http://dbpedia.org/resource/ Majapahit).
The Laguna Copper Plate dated 900 AD (Postma, 1992) had an inscription that condoned the debt of the descendants of Namwaran (926.4 grams of gold) which was granted by the chief of Tondo in Manila and the authorities of Paila, Binwangan and Pulilan in Luzon. The words were a mixture of Sanskrit (Francisco, 1964), Old Malay, Old Javanese and Old Tagalog. This establishes the Maharlikan connection with the Srivijaya Empire and Majapahit Empire. (Hudtohan, 2015).
For three centuries of colonial rule, the Spaniards failed to penetrate the rich gold deposits due to the Gran Cordillera Central resistance of the Igorots of the Mountain Province. Gold diggings and gold treasures were in the hands of the natives until the coming of the Americans.
Traditional placer and lode mining and metallurgy were subsistent activities of the barangays before Spanish colonization which began in 1521. These were evidence of piloncitos. Piloncitos are tiny engraved gold coins found in the Philippines from the pre-Hispanic era. Trade among the Maharlikans [early Filipinos] and with traders from the neighboring islands was conducted through barter. The inconvenience of barter later led to the use of some objects as a medium of exchange. Gold, which was plentiful in many parts of the islands, invariably found its way into these objects that included the piloncitos, small bead-like gold bits considered by the local numismatists as the earliest coin of the ancient Filipinos, and gold barter ring
1. With the Didipio mine up and running and operations resumed at Padcal, only a limited number of mines now remain in stages of development that would allow them to commence operations in the coming years. At least three new mining projects with combined investments of P1.46bn ($32.85m) are expected to be up and running in early 2015 with several others also awaiting final authorization of pending permits to begin mining as well.
2. Among these is the Vitali iron ore mining project, located in Zamboanga City in Mindanao, which will produce iron along with smaller amounts of gold, silver and other associated mineral deposits over a projected mine life of 10 years. Hard Rock Mineral Trading secured a declaration of mining project feasibility (DMPF) in March 2014 to begin commercial operations through its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), which covers an area of 2077 ha.
3. The other projects on the horizon are two new nickel operations: Libjo nickel laterite project, developed by the East Coast Mineral Resources Company on Dinagat Island, and the Agata nickel laterite project, from the Minimax Mineral Exploration Corporation, located in Agusan del Norte. The Agata North nickel mine is estimated to have proven and probable ore (limonite and saprolite) reserves of 6.79m tonnes, with measured and indicated resources of 33.94m at a grade of 1.1% nickel, and inferred resources of around 2m tonnes with a nickel grade of 1.04%. A partial DMPF for nickel production on 600 ha was approved in April 2014 by the government, with exploration also approved in the remaining portion of the 7679-ha MPSA contract area. Commercial operations to mine chromite and nickel have also been approved for the 697-ha MPSA covering Dinagat Island which expires in November 2022.
4. In addition to these, the Runruno mine is also under development and could begin commercial operations as early as 2015 provided it is able to clear up a few outstanding social and environmental permits. The gold-molybdenum project boasts a defined resource of 1.42m oz. of gold and 11.6m kg of molybdenum according to operator FCF Minerals Corporation, with 780,000 oz. of proven and probable gold reserves.
5. The long awaited King-king Copper-Gold Project, being developed by the Philippines-based Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor) and Toronto-listed St Augustine Gold and Copper, was also on the verge of opening as of early 2015, pending the approval of its Environmental Compliance Certificate. If given the go-ahead, the mine would likely become the most productive in the country, producing around 110,000-130,000 tonnes of copper as well as 529,000 oz. of gold per year, according to company estimates.
6. Located near Davao City in Mindanao, the project boasts measured and indicated mineral resources of 962.3m tonnes at 0.25% total copper, 0.06% soluble copper and 0.33 grams per tonne of gold, resulting in 2.45bn kg of contained copper and 10.3m oz. of contained gold, according to data from St Augustine.
7. Other significant projects in varying stages of development include the Far Southeast copper-gold project from Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and Gold Fields, which is expecting approval for its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement in 2015, and Philexs Silangan gold and copper project, forecast to begin production in 2018.
8. Outlook: The Philippines vast and largely untapped mining potential will continue to draw strong interest from both foreign and domestic actors despite decreasing investment in the short term. Although a few projects are moving forward, the vast majority of large-scale developments will remain on hold until the government issues the relevant sector regulations, which could feasibly drag on through the 2016 elections.
Artemio Disini, (OBG Report, 2015) chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Once these issues are resolved, there are many large, high-grade reserves in the country. There are large deposits of gold, copper and nickel in Eastern Mindanao. If internationals decide the risk is too great in the Philippines, large local conglomerates are already showing interest in filling the void. The question is when the regulatory framework will catch up with demand. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The Philippine Star reported on September 15, 2013 that coal mining in Seminrara may resume this year according to the Department of Energy. Earlier the Department of Environment and Natural Resource-Environment Management Bureau suspended Semirara environmental compliance but restored it later after investigation showed the landslide had no adverse effect or damage to the environment in Antique.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer on September 14, 2015 reported that a mining town seeks watershed exclusion at Itogon, Benquet. The purpose of this is to urge the Department of Natural Resources to facilitate the exclusion of Braranga Tiriongdan, Loaca, Gumatdang, Ampucao and Dulupirip from the Lower Agno Watershed Forest Reserve. Itogon Councilor Arnel Bahingawan said the Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid West Management Act of 2000) requires local government to build waste disposal facilities but the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) does not allow the town to use land near a watershed for this purpose. The question is why was the big mining company allowed to build its tailings pond in the same area? This refers to Benguet Corp. and Philex Mining Corp.
It appears that the economic impact of the Philippine mining industry, which was included in the 2011 mandatory list of annual Investment Priorities Plan which the Trade Department endorsed to Malacanang to further drive national economic growth, is being stunted by the resistance of civil society composed of NGOs, the private sectors and the Catholic Church in the Philippines. He was criticized by environmental activist Gina Lopez (2011) who questioned his national policy on natural resources. She eventually led a protest against mining in Palawan by securing a million signatures to stop mining. The Marcopper and Philex Mining disasters continue to spotlight the negative impact of mining.
Politically, the mining industry in the Philippines is being stunted by the non-alignment of the local government with the mining policy of the national government. Thus, the economic impact of the mining industry in the Philippines , which included mining as one of the eleven investment targets when President Benigno Aquino, Jr. started his term, is not a significant driver for progress.
The power of the local government appears to be stronger than that of the national government. It appears that the local officials, like the city or town mayor can invoke their power under the Department of Internal and Local Government. In support with the anti-mining sentiment of some local government officials are the civic environmental activists and the Catholic Church which continue to influence business leaders and civil servants. The American-style of democratic freedom is exercised by Philippine media and it is one of the strongest critics of mining, especially when it comes to reporting mining disasters and anti-mining rallies.
Historically, mining in the Philippines is traced from the Maharlikan time to Spanish colonial period and the American regime that started the corporate exploration of mining in Benguet, Mountain Province. The minerals which the pre-Hispanic Filipinos enjoy has been overtaken by the Spanish friars and conquistadores (1521-1896), then by the Americans (1898 -1935). The Philippine Commonwealth (1935-1946) allowed Filipinos to govern themselves, a transitional period prior to Philippine Independence from the United States of America. The Japanese government during World War II ruled from 1942-1845, Today, the struggle between the Philippine Government and the indigenous people (IPs) continue as lands expropriated to the mining industry continues to encroach into the domains of the IPs.
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Iron smelting on an ancient site clearly changed soil element composition and pH.The alteration matches the composition of ferrous slag or ore, charcoal and fuel ash.Trace metal(loid) contents partly exceed guideline levels, but only negligibly.Compared to (ancient) base metal processing, values are of secondary importance.Deposits showing high contents of trace metal(loid)s were only mined in modern times.
Elba Island was a hotspot of iron mining and smelting in Italy since Etruscan times (6th century BCE). Whereas the environmental burden of modern (base) metal mining in Tuscany is well studied, the impact of both ancient iron mining and smelting on soils in the region is poorly understood. Therefore, we took soil samples from an ancient smelting site and adjacent areas to evaluate the release of trace metal(loid)s from smelting. Additionally, we evaluated metallurgical activity markers on the site, i.e. the chemical signature of the production process. The evaluation is based on the soils' element composition, total and pyrogenic carbon contents, pH, and magnetic susceptibility. Statistical analysis include clustering, principal component analysis, and inference tests. Our results indicate that (i) Fe, As, Cu, Ca, total organic, and pyrogenic carbon contents and pH are increased on the smelting site. (ii) This increase corresponds to relatively high contents in these parameters in slag, ore, charcoal, and ash compared to values from background soils. (iii) Metal(loid) contents partly exceed guideline values, but appear negligible compared to (modern) mining mostly hematite was mined in antiquity, whereas limonite (associated with galena) was only extracted in modern times.