The use of iron came much later. Iron was softer than bronze but required more advanced "smithy" technologies. However it was in more supply and it replaced the bronze technologies in what historians call the Bronze Age collapse. Homer's "The Iliad" describes metaphorically what this collapse involved.
The mining of minerals surely caused a technological revolution in the time when humans shifted from neolithic hunter gatherer and incipient agriculture to a more permanent agricultural state. And the need for mineral resources grows unabated as we come up with more technologies.
Much of The Philippines literally is a giant part of the mineral rich ocean floor thrust above the water. It is not unexpected that mining companies would be attracted to invest in this extractive industry. After all what attracted the imperialist powers to colonize the islands was really precious metals. A metallurgical tradition has been long in the Philippines where the present day Tagalog language preserves ancient words to describe the purity of gold and silver. However the big question in today's mining debate is "Who gets the money?"
Opponents of mining raise the examples of environmental degradation and that communities where there has been mining have remained poor. These has basis in fact for in the 20th century this was true especially in colonized Africa. But we have to distinguish between two kinds of mining enterprises, one that focuses on exploration and ones that specialize in investments in mining infrastructure needed for extraction. It is somewhat analogous to a visit to the dentist. The dentist can do "exploration" work on your teeth to find cavities or do "mining" and extract your tooth. But of course dentists would rather fill in the cavity. A dental exam is less expensive that an extraction than a filling!
In a society which had been 1) imperialistically colonized, 2) has a solid religious allegiance, 3) has an elite that controls much of the nation's wealth, 4) has little or no wealth and economic redistribution and 5) has increasing empowerment of the marginalized sectors it is not surprising that mining has become a socio-political and even a theological issue. Here is what I call a quintessential STS (science, technology and society) issue. There is the science that has empirically demonstrated that it is indeed possible to remediate mine sites or to even design relatively safe mining workplaces. However to convince society that scientific information alone is enough to sway public opinion is to delude oneself. We need to see the context of science here, for example with religious groups
The Christian churches are against mining because Christian theology has moved from mastering nature theology to stewardship theology. This is no longer fringe since Pope John Paul II had made it one of his theological centerpieces of his papacy in his 1990 World Day of Peace message. The fact that it was read for the World Day of Peace links environmental issues with the issues of peace and redistribution of the fruits of the world's resources. His successor Pope Benedict XVI has even developed this theme further. In the Philippines the Roman Catholic Church, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the Episcopal Church have been most vocal against mining together with the other smaller Protestant churches. And BTW JP II is on the road to becoming a saint!
And here is where Pope JP II zeroes in on mining
"Often, the interests of production prevail over concern for the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. In these cases, pollution or environmental destruction is the result of an unnatural and reductionist vision which at times leads to a genuine contempt for man."
It is a gross act of ignorance to call these faith positions as "emotional". The theology behind this rests on a nuanced understanding of logical development in Christian thinking. Similarly more secularly oriented environmentalist groups have taken a similar development in ethics along the Christian line.
Of course we should not forget the socio-political historical context of the mining debate. In fact it is part of the Philippine nationalist tradition to oppose mining, especially by foreigners. Read the famous 1908 editorial of Reyes, Kalaw and Ocampo "Aves de Rapina" in El Renacimiento where the writers lost a celebrated libel case filed by American Insular Government secretary Dean Worcester who felt alluded to in the article. This case is a landmark in Philippine libel law and the nationalist struggle. The famous editorial had
"He gives laudable impetus to the search for rich lodes in Mindanao, in Mindoro and in other virgin regions of the archipelago, a search undertaken with the people's money and with the excuse of its being for the public good; when in strict truth, his purpose is to obtain data and find the keys to the national wealth for his essentially personal benefit, as proved by the acquisition of immense lands under the names of others."
and probably more relevant to the mining debate and for the Noynoy administration
"Birds of prey always triumph; their flight and aims are never thwarted. For who can dare detain them?
There are some who may share in the booty and the plunder itself, but the others are left too weak to raise a voice in protest, while some die in the disheartening destruction of their own energies and interests. Yet at the very end, there shall appear, with terrifying clearness, that immortal warning of old:
"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN."
Thus it is not surprising that mining has become larger than the environmental and economic issue it was thought to be!
Christian Monsod gives a balanced view of the issues here. It is a social issue now foremost. The fact is that government doesn't have the capacity to regulate mining.
Monsod has the barb as
" I just wanted to make the point that history has not been very kind to our poor. And we know this must change.