NGO backs Secretary Lopez’s ban on open pit mining

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 May) — An environmental group in Mindanao, which hosts a province where an open pit mining ban stands for almost seven years now, strongly supported Monday the decision of Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez to ban such method across the Philippines.

Chinkie Peliño-Golle, acting executive director of Davao City-based non-government organization Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), said that DENR Administrative Order No 2017-10 issued by Lopez on April 27 will encourage them to continue their anti-mining campaign.

“It’s a brave and long overdue decision considering the impacts of this kind of (open pit) mining to the environment,” Peliño-Golle told MindaNews.

In a statement, Lopez said the total ban shall cover “open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver and complex ores.”

She, however, clarified that quarrying will not be covered by the ban, as such method of extraction would be regulated, A quarry is an open-pit mine that produces building materials and dimension stones, such as granite, marble and limestone, among others.

According to the environment chief, open-pit mining “is a financial liability, poses risks to host communities and kills the economic potential of the community.”

“I’d rather put a policy to ban it (open-pit mining) now that we do not have the technology for it yet,” Lopez said.

Lopez also noted that most mining disasters in the country were due to the tailings spills associated with open pit mining.

The history of Philippine mining, she added, would show that most open pits have ended up as “perpetual liabilities,” causing adverse effects to the environment because of the level of acidity in those areas.

Lopez issued the open pit mining ban days before she would again face the Commission on Appointments (CA) on May 2. The CA has not confirmed her appointment as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Lopez drew controversy following her decision to close down 23 mines and scrap 75 mining contracts across the country.

Peliño-Golle expressed hopes, however, that this time, the CA will confirm Lopez as DENR secretary.

She described Lopez’s open pit mining ban as a big leap to save the environment from the claws of mining operations.

If mining is allowed to continue, the government must ensure that environmental protection is put in place, said Peliño-Golle, adding that mining must also benefit local communities and the country’s economy, and not just mainly the investors.

Lopez said the destructive nature and its potential for a disaster were the main reasons why she decided to impose a ban on open pit mining.

In the Philippines, the ban on open-pit mining was first adopted by the provincial government of South Cotabato in June 2010, which hosts the largest undeveloped copper and gold reserve in Southeast Asia, in the municipality of Tampakan.

The proponent of the Tampakan project, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), plans to excavate the minerals using the open pit method.

Based on SMI’s study, open pit is the most feasible method to mine mineral as they are near the earth’s surface.

SMI has criticized the open pit ban in South Cotabato, saying it will employ “responsible mining in extracting the minerals.” (MindaNews)