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Philippine open-pit mining allowed anew after four-year ban

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has lifted the four-year-old ban on open-pit mining, a policy initiated by the late former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez in 2017.

In DENR Administrative Order No. 2021-40 issued on December 23, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu overturned his late predecessor’s Administrative Order No. 2017-10, which banned the mining method for the extraction of copper, gold, silver, and/or complex ores in the country.

Cimatu said lifting the ban on open-pit mining would “revitalize the mining industry and usher in significant economic benefits to the country by providing raw materials for the construction and development of other industries and by increasing employment opportunities in rural areas where there are mining activities thereby stimulating countryside development.”

He said open-pit mining method was a globally-accepted method of mining, considered to be the most feasible option for mining near-surface or shallow ore deposits.

Cimatu said not all open-pit mines produced acid rock drainage contaminants.

He said there were best-practice control strategies and technologies that could help avoid or manage the negative impacts of open-pit mining.

Cimatu said there were also existing laws that designated areas where mining may not be allowed.

“Major issues concerning mining including open-pit mining cannot be attributed to the use of the method itself, but rather on the accidents involving wastes and tailings confinement,” Cimatu said.

“Progressive rehabilitation of mined out areas is now being practice to restore vegetative cover and reduce adverse impacts on the environment,” he added.

Cimatu said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Management Bureau, and DENR Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office found the surface metallic mines compliant with the mining and environmental rules and regulations and were implementing sound and progressive and final mine rehabilitation.

“Continuing the ban on open-pit mining may result in loss of economic opportunity,” Cimatu said.

The DENR imposed condition and requirements for open-pit mining methods:

  • The use of surface mining shall not pose possible hazard to public health and safety resulting from ground failure or physical deterioration
  • It shall not release hazardous chemicals into the environment
  • The proponent has adequate information to conduct a comprehensive stakeholders’ involvement process to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered, and has social acceptability of its project since the commencement of the exploration activities
  • The proponent has submitted and presented appropriate program/s for surface and subsurface slope-stability monitoring of potential slope failures
  • The proponent has accumulated sufficient geological data to conduct proper and assessment of local geology, rock mass characteristics, hydrogeology, and surface hydrology

The order shall take effect 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. —NB, GMA News

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