Discourses of Development and Disasters: Shocks and Responses in Philippine Mining

  • Emerson Sanchez

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study investigates the extent to which a society like the Philippines can generate
    meaningful responses to mining disasters. Mining disasters amplify long-standing conflicts
    that have been hounding the industry, where different views about development, politics, and
    the environment clash. Using three different cases of mining disasters in Marinduque island, I
    examine how responses are conditioned by the configuration of dominant discourses. I
    identified this configuration by studying the deeper history of discourses that surround
    Philippine mining. This study also identifies two environmental discourses in non-industrial
    settings, indigenous sustainability and a non-industrial cornucopian discourse, which expands
    existing environmental discourse taxonomies. I evaluate the adequacy of response to disasters
    through reference to the idea of ecological reflexivity, a capacity to recognise environmental
    issue, rethink core values and practices, and respond by changing values and practices. In
    mining, ecological reflexivity might be sought in the shocks generated by disasters. But the
    degree to which reflexivity is possible is conditioned by the deeper history of discourses as
    well as their contemporary configuration. This study applies an environmental discourse
    approach that shows the protracted influence of the Promethean discourse in policies and
    institutions leading to mining disasters. In mining, the Promethean discourse means using
    capital-intensive technology to enable the perpetual exploitation of minerals while
    downplaying environmental risks. Promethean thinking was consistent with or went alongside
    state intervention, crony capitalism, and oligarchic patrimonialism. Another contribution of
    this study is in the application of ecological reflexivity, a transformative ideal. Green political
    discourse can help set conditions for ecological reflexivity, because it recognises complex and
    vulnerable ecosystems and the value of inclusive and participatory governance. Consistent
    with green politics, the local environmental movement anticipated these disasters and
    mobilised in their aftermath, helping set conditions for ecological reflexivity. However, an
    institutional response that varied from resistant to weak and inconsistent severely constrained
    reflexivity. The study offers a different approach to the study of mining disasters and the
    conflicts they amplify. The findings suggest some pathways to veer away from entrenched
    dominant discourses and practices that lead to mining disasters.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Canberra
    SupervisorJohn Dryzek (Supervisor) & Nicole Curato (Supervisor)

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