Nickel Laterites are not mine tailings or “latak ng mina”

There is a good short discussion made by the fb group, “No to Irresponsible Mining in the Philippines.” Reposting below…


In the past several months, several environmentalists and even journalists were telling the people of the adverse effects of mining in the country, especially the nickel mines. The nickel mines were tagged as really destructive to the environment not only because of its mining method, but also because of its supposed “mine waste”, which were the nickel laterites. Several people actually told the public that the nickel laterites were “latak ng mina” because of the belief that these soil were by products of the mining methods and that these are extremely hazardous for the people and the environment. But is it really a mine waste?

Geology says otherwise. Nickel Laterites are not mine wastes; rather they are a type of soil naturally rich in nickel that was formed not by mining, but because of the natural chemical and physical weathering of ultramafic bedrock. This weathering generates the soil that was continually enriched with nickel through time, thus becoming a laterite. This process is most prominent in tropical countries, such as the Philippines, because of the high annual precipitation and temperature. This process takes a really long time from the emplacement of the ultramafic rocks to the forming of the thick laterite deposits.

As a product of geologic processes, this soil will surely be included in the different natural cycles in the area, thus, it is really natural to see it along rivers or even at seas during rainy season since it is the major type of soil in the area.

With this in mind, nickel laterites were already there even before the first human came into existence, thus it can never be just a by-product of mining, as some people said so. Whether there is mining or not in the area, there will be nickel laterites.


The picture shows the developing lateritic soil alongside the fragments of the ultramafic rocks, wherein the soil were the products of the intensive weathering of the rocks in this area of Narra, Palawan.

Reference: Gleeson, S.A., Butt, C.R.M., and Elias, M. (2003). Nickel Laterites: A Review. SEG Newsletter, 54, pp. 1,12-18.

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