Sunday, September 13, 2015
By Anton Antonio
September 14, 2015
Two days ago, my friend and also a pro-environment advocate, Althea de Jesus sent me a personal message that says: Sir Anton, Kamusta? Can I have some of your thoughts on this statement: “A mineral resource has no value as long as it remains beneath the earth’s surface.”
It’s a very thought-provoking statement, isn’t it? Here are my thoughts which I communicated to Althea…
“September 13, 2015
I’m fine and I hope you are too. Pambihira ka naman… that’s a challenging and quizzical statement, my friend. But I would, to the best of my limited capability, share whatever is in my mind.
To begin with, the statement seems to focus on putting a price tag on natural resources as it presupposes that unextracted or unutilized mineral resources do not have value. On the contrary, I believe that everything on Earth has value. Remember the challenge that Dr. Consuelo dL. Habito gave us on putting value on the goods and services that Mother Earth offers us? The exercise roused us to quantify, even if we only had ballpark figures, every conceivable resource and service (including air and water resources, the aesthetic value of beautiful landscapes, etc.) that nature provides. That exercise opened our eyes to the fact that everything on earth, in whatever shape, size and form, has value.
Let’s talk about “mathematical value” and its relationship to mineral resources valuation. In mathematics, value may refer to the value of a variable or a constant which could be ANY NUMBER… which, therefore, includes negative integers. Unextracted or unutilized mineral resources do not necessarily equate to “zero value”. We should realize that there are mineral resources that could be very harmful such as coal. The value of coal to business and industry seems to make a lot of sense but this is a purely business viewpoint. But you and I know that coal, as an energy source, is largely blamed for global warming and climate change. If we consider the impact and contribution of coal to climate change, we will, most certainly, arrive at a scenario that offsets its benefits. Cost-benefit studies on coal show that the benefits (that only accrue to businessmen) are less than the long-term cost and hazard/damage to people. Therefore, extracting and utilizing coal, no matter how profitable and cost efficient, may only lead to a “negative value”. Given a choice, I would rather that coal remains at “zero value” (meaning: let it remain beneath the Earth’s surface) than extract and use it with the eventual repercussion equivalent to “negative value”.
This may no longer be part of the statement but I just cannot help but comment further. Identifying mineral resources that are good or bad for us is something that will take time for me to explain. I also may not have all the information to categorize mineral resources as good or bad for the environment in general. All I am certain of is that coal and other fossil fuels have been proven to be harmful to both flora and fauna and our world in general. I believe that we should start veering away from these forms of energy and seriously start considering alternative forms of energy that are both clean and renewable.
There is also this issue and concern over the “renewability” of resources (mineral or otherwise). Conscious and educated care must be maintained in utilizing non-renewable natural resources on one hand while exercising diligence in the utilization of renewable resources on the other hand. As disciples of environmental science, we should always adhere to the principle of sustainable environmental management.
Lastly, the statement that “A mineral resource has no value as long as it remains beneath the earth’s surface.” is something that should not be viewed on the purely business and monetary perspective. I strongly oppose this mindset. Mineral resources should be viewed not only for their present but also their future value to mankind and the rest of our environment. Our primary concern should be geared towards how these resources could be utilized in a calibrated manner that will leave enough to satisfy the needs of future generations. It is equally important that our use of mineral resources should not jeopardize the health and wellness of people today and tomorrow. This is how I would view mineral resources for their real value.
God bless you. Stay well…
Thoughts to promote positive action…
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