The process of extracting useful materials from the earth — such as coal, gold, iron ore, sand and gravel — is mining which results in environmental degradation. It is the most hazardous industrial occupation; it not only competes for land and water resources but also produces health-threatening waste and pollutants.
The Philippines is the fifth most mineralised country in the world, having the third largest deposits of gold, fourth for copper, fifth for nickel, and sixth for chromite — valued at around A$1.32 trillion. These remain largely untapped, and is the reason why many entities are competing to tap our natural resources.
Recently, a report disclosed that a certain company called Midan Mining Corp. had been issued an “exploration” permit by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources way back in 2016 to tap possible mining sites in the hinterlands of sitio Tarog in barangays San Francisco, San Pedro, and Milagrosa in the southern town of Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental.
This site is actually a forest reserve, a protected tourism site, home of indigenous people; rich in biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and which serves as a watershed catch basin, a source of potable water. Hence, the whole community who live in these areas are vehemently opposed to the mining activities of this Midan Mining Corp.
Sta. Catalina Mayor Peve Obañana-Ligan had sent a letter to Hyunyong Cho, president and CEO of Midan Mining Corp., to express the local government unit’s and her constituents’ opposition to the mining activities, citing the hazards and other deleterious effects of mining.
On April 27, 2017, the late DENR Sec. Gina Lopez issued an order “banning the open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores in the country” citing past environmental disasters caused by mining operations that employed the open-pit mining method. She indicated that such mining method poses risks to host communities and to the environment.
However, former Secretary Lopez was summarily replaced from her post, and on Dec. 23, 2021, the ban on open-pit mining was lifted on the premise that the “revitalization of the mineral resource industry is one measure to achieve economic growth amid the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Open-pit mining, where material is excavated from the ground’s surface, is particularly damaging to the environment because strategic minerals are often only available in small concentrations, which increases the amount of ore needed to be mined. Environmental hazards are present during every step of the open-pit mining process. Hardrock mining exposes rocks that have lain unexposed for geological eras. When crushed, these rocks expose radioactive elements, asbestos-like minerals, and metallic dust. During separation, residual rock slurries — which are mixtures of pulverized rock and liquid — are produced as tailings, toxic and radioactive elements from these liquids can leak into bedrock.
Opposing development perspectives/sentiments on open-pit mining has set forth the ecological integrity implications of open-pit mining, as it requires clearing thousands of hectares of rainforests and agricultural lands, deep excavations to extract minerals, the use of toxic heavy metals and chemicals to process mineral ores, and the consumption of millions of liters of water — based on facts from studies conducted. No to mining!
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