Carlo Arcilla – Philippine Mining: Enigmatic Issues


The Philippines is one of the largest sources of nickel worldwide, now a critical ingredient in batteries used versus climate change. Mining has been enigmatic because while it only contributes < 1% of the national GDP, its actual footprint is 0.3% of the land area and is the main source of income for the local mining communities. The ugly scars of open pit mining in nickel extraction, and the fact that most of the unprocessed ores are sold at low cost to China has contributed to a largely unfavorable view of mining. Contributing to this perception is the phenomenon of “small-scale” illegal mining with egregious environmental violations. The enigmatic situation of mining is best illustrated in Palawan Island, considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and is a large tourist attraction. In the same island, however, away from the tourist spots because of different geology are nickel mines that provide higher income to the province. With best practices and vigilant regulators, it is possible for mining to contribute more to the national economy. In contrast to the negative coverage of mining are largely unknown good practices of mining companies, and the contributions to the livelihood of indigenous people living in mining areas.

Fig 1. The left and center pictures show mined-out and rehabilitated mining areas, and the bottom image show siltation as a result of open pit nickel mining.


Prof. Carlo Arcilla

University of the Philippines and Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines;

Carlo “Caloy” Arcilla was born in Virac, Catanduanes to parents Carmen and Solon. Carmen was a high school principal and Solon was an engineer who started the Engineering program of the Catanduanes State University. Like his sister, he got accepted to the Philippine Science High School and later earned a BS in Geology (cum laude) degree from UP Diliman. After teaching for a couple of years at UP, he worked at the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation in Cebu as a geologist. He won a Fulbright Scholarship to study for his MS and PhD at the University of Illinois at Chicago and briefly taught at the Northeastern Illinois University. Returning from the USA, he joined the Faculty at UP NIGS. His research and professional work included the development of the first garbage-fueled electric power plant in Payatas, and his fieldwork and geochemical analyses have resulted in the stock market listing of two mining companies, Century Peak Corporation and Marc Ventures Mining, who were early pioneers in Nickel Mining. Among his environmental work included delineating the responsible party to the infamous West Tower petroleum disaster whose source was a pipeline leak. For this work, he recognized by the Supreme Court as amicus curiae. He is also a pioneer in carbon sequestration studies in the Philippines. Appointed director of NIGS, he raised funds to modernize its laboratories and strengthened its links to the industry. In 2017, he was appointed director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and among his current projects there include lowering the costs of cancer diagnosis through nuclear medicine and innovative nuclear applications in agriculture. He continues to publish, and his graduate students have moved on and been accepted to schools such as MIT, Swiss ETH, Caltech, UIC, etc. He was elected president of the Earth Science Section of the Asia Oceania Geological Society and received the Most Outstanding Geologist Award from the PRC. He is also an entrepreneur, starting businesses in drilling, gemstones, chemical analyses, and production of natural alkaline water.