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Monday, June 17, 2024

Gina bans open-pit mining

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ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Lopez on Thursday banned new open-pit mining.

She blamed open-pit mines for the serious degradation of the environment.

“Each open pit is a financial liability for government and for life. It kills the economic potential of the place,” she said.

Her administrative order came before another hearing on her confirmation by the Commission on Appointments is set on May 2, where she is expected to face strong opposition.

‘I’m doing it now because I have no idea what’s going to happen on Tuesday,” Lopez said.

Existing open-pit mines are not covered by Lopez’s order.

“I’m banning the open-pit mining, and not the existing ones because they are already there. We just have to find a way out of it. But we are banning prospective open-pit mines,” she said.

Apart from being a financial liability, an open-pit mine poses risk to the community, Lopez said.

She said the prohibition does not need any amendment to the Mining Act.

“I can do it as a matter of policy. I am the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary,” she said.

Asked if her order would apply to open-pit mining that are already going through the exploration phase, Lopez just replied “no more digging at all.”

She advised companies who intend to start open-pit mining to “go to another country.”

Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Ipat Luna said the department has already defined open-pit mining.

“Quarrying is not included. Only gold, copper, I think silver because the other minerals cannot be found here,” he said.

“So mostly gold and copper are involved in an open-pit, and prospective. The way she’s going to address the current open-pits is that the water must not get acidic.”

Mines that will be affected by the order include the $5.8-Tampakan Copper-Gold Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc., the $1.2-billion Silangan mine project of Silangan Mindanao Mining Company Corporated, and the $2billion King-king Copper-Gold project of St. Augustine Gold & Copper Ltd.

“The history of mining in the country shows that most, if not all, open pits have ended up as perpetual liabilities, causing adverse impacts to the environment, particularly due to the generation of acidic or heavy metal-laden water, erosion of mine waste dumps or vulnerability of tailings dams to geological hazards,” said Lopez.

Lopez in her order said that records attest that most of the mining disasters in the country were due to tailings spills associated with open pit mining.

“Notwithstanding the provisions of the Mining Act on final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning, the fact remains that the rehabilitation of mined-out open pits shall invariably require perpetual maintenance works that shall outlive the existence of the mining companies and, thereby, leave to the unknown the fate of the environment,” Lopez said.

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