Without mining, industry would not be possible: Most of the raw materials needed for industry and manufacturing come from mining.
In 2015 the total production from mining in Taiwan was 18.06 million tonnes, consisting predominantly of marble, limestone and serpentine, in addition to more modest volumes of dolomite, silicon, mica, talc, Taiwan jade, rose stone and blue chalcedony. These were in addition to the petroleum and natural gas produced by CPC Corp, Taiwan.
Although the reserves of marble and limestone are the most plentiful of that list, the amounts extracted can regulate supply and demand, and stabilize prices, both of which are beneficial in retaining downstream industries in Taiwan, and creating and maintaining jobs.
Mining inevitably causes an environmental impact. There are voices in Taiwan that would prefer people did not mine in their own backyard. The natural corollary is of course that the mining is carried out in somebody else’s backyard.
In 2015, Taiwan imported 177.72 million tonnes of minerals and rocks, and exported 1.52 million tonnes. Therefore, the amount of rocks and minerals that are imported far outstrips the amount it exports.
The amount of carbon emissions from shipping these rocks and minerals all the way from overseas is considerable, and runs counter to the global effort to reduce such emissions. Indeed, the most environmentally responsible approach would be to use raw materials in the same place they are extracted.
The Legislative Yuan is considering amendments to the Mining Act (礦業法), with eight versions proposed by legislative committees, in addition to a version proposed by the Cabinet.
The two most important points in these proposals concern whether mining rights remain valid during the period between the expiration of those rights and the approval date for application for an extension — in other words, can mining continue — and whether it is necessary to reapply to use land approved for mining operations after the extension of mining rights has been approved.
According to Article 13 of the act, mining rights expire after 20 years, but after this period, organizations can apply for an extension.
There is a considerable difference between investing in mining and investing in other projects, because of the high risks, slow returns and high initial investment involved. To protect mining sector investors, many nations allow mining rights to extend until the project ends, rather than imposing an expiry date on them.
To the second point, it makes no sense for an organization whose mining rights have been extended to have to reapply for permission to operate. As the land was approved for mining operations, an enterprise will obviously continue to work on the same land if its permission is extended. It will not look to develop a different area. So what is the point in requiring them to reapply?
Mining provides the natural resources that people need to live. The question is: How do we balance mining and environmental protection?
Would it be possible to mine in people’s backyards — others’ as well as our own — if commitment to planning how the land is to be repurposed before it is cut into could be made, proper attention is paid to environmental and water conservation, engineering safety during the mining process is assured and the land could be properly repurposed when the operation is complete?