Restoring the land after being mined out

Reposting this good article published in Manila Bulletin last May 11, 2017.


Too bad there is a contest between environmental protection and mining. Too bad too that the person who could have revolutionized the relationship has been rejected by the CA. She made a couple of mistakes in a bureaucracy. But there is no need for disagreement between mining and environment protection. The big miners have the capacity to protect the environment better than anybody. It is all a question of making them toe the line. And they would be happy to do so. Of course, there are some rogue miners but they are few and can be controlled. And we have enough good laws in mining.

It is the small miners perhaps who destroy the environment and they do not have the resources to restore good environment after they have mined an area. This is not all their fault. They have to earn a living. But even the small miners’ destruction or seeming destruction can be remedied after they have mined the metals that they want. The Lord has been most generous to us. I once saw fire destroy mountain sides of virgin forest trees. It was a pity to see the destruction. But now in just a few years they are now overgrown again with lush vegetation.

The Lord has given us tremendous amounts of good natural resources in the form of metals. We have mountains of gold, copper, and nickel. There are also other precious and base metals. We just have to dig them up without damaging the environment. Can this be done? In a sense, no. But we can restore the land after we have mined the metals that will give us livelihood. There is some objection to open-pit mining because they see the land up-turned. But this is the safest of all kinds of mining. If you imagine that these could have been agricultural lands producing food, then you might regret using it for mining, but this is just temporary. After the metals have been harvested, then you can plant again. I am sure you would admire the picture of mine sites after they have been rehabilitated, green and lush. Not only that, mining can produce a hundred times or more compared to the most profitable agricultural product. Furthermore many mines are in barren lands or on top or sides of mountains where it is not possible to do agriculture.

Mindanao especially is rich with precious minerals. Mindanao has three faults running from north to south. And these faults have welled up precious minerals. Only the eastern fault has been exploited to some extent. I remember Mr. P. who worked with Davao del Norte Mines who used to describe to me that when they exploded dynamite in their tunnels, he was the only one allowed to enter after the explosion. Then he collected bags of pure gold before the other miners were allowed in. Recently an Australian mining company together with a Swiss company were proposing a copper mine in Cotabato that could be the biggest copper mine in the world. The copper still has to be mined but it is there for us to feed our hungry citizens. The Chinese have been hauling nickel ore from Surigao without doing any processing here. It is high grade enough to haul it as raw ore. It runs almost at 2% nickel just as that in Tawi-Tawi which has not yet been touched. The western fault has a few mines in Zamboanga but the central fault that runs through Bukidnon has hardly been touched. Outside of South Africa and North America, we probably have the biggest deposits of precious metals. I hear that recently a big palladium mine has been discovered. We even have uranium but untouched.

They say that in Nevada, they mine gold that cannot be seen by the naked eye in its pristine stage. On the other hand we have loads of placer mines in Mindoro, Southern Leyte, Surigao, and other places waiting to be mined. This is a rich country and there is no reason for hunger or poverty. We just have to harness our resources. And they can last for thousands of years.

One mineral we have little of is oil. Precisely, as some geologists explain, because our volcanoes and faults have burnt up all the hydrocarbons that existed. It is only west of Palawan that we have found oil in commercial quantities. Does Benham Rise have oil? Nobody knows as yet but it is possible since it does not seem to have volcanoes or faults.

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