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Mining ban seen leading to fuel crisis

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BANNING open-pit mining may lead to an energy crisis, an engineering professor told a media forum on Wednesday. 

“Open-pit mining is done in most countries around the world. It could be done safely and is one of the most economical methods in mining,” said University of the Philippines professor Gabriel Pamintuan Jr.

He made his statement even as Environment Secretary Regina Lopez recently issued an order transforming her agency’s programs into “green economy models” or GEMS.

Lopez said GEMS will enable community members to create sustainable goods and services for the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems. 

“It is in taking care of the environment that all the Filipino people will truly benefit,” Lopez said. 

Pamintuan showed an image of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. to cite an example of the benefits that open-pit mines provide the country. 

“Shutting down Semirara would mean a power crisis given that coal contributes an estimated 47 percent of Luzon’s power requirements,” Pamintuan said. 

“Calaca, which feeds on 100-percent Semirara open-pit coal, even if it only contributes 7 percent to the peak power demand, is a base load plant. Any outage by base load power plants can trigger cascading brownouts that could extent to a Luzon-wide outage.” 

Pamintuan said the incident could be similar to the Sual power plant outage when its cooling system was clogged by jellyfish resulting in blackouts in Luzon. 

In the same forum, Caloy Arcilla of the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences slammed Lopez’s order exempting quarries from the order against open-pit mining. 

Arcilla said Lopez was protecting their family’s business, First Balfour, which is allegedly conducting open-pit mining operations in a watershed in Batangas.

He said Lopez’s category of social justice was “unacceptable since it has no metrics.” 

While he asked for transparency regarding the genuine results of the mines audit and the ensuing review by the Minerals Industry Coordinating Council, Arcilla called on the government to clamp down on the truly irresponsible mines. 

He made the same call to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, saying it was necessary for the organization to rid its ranks of irresponsible members.


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