Experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said open-pit mining is economically efficient, as it could help authorities intensify its regulation of mining companies across the country.
Open-pit mining, which involves removing rocks and minerals from an open pit or borrow, is globally accepted, MGB Division Chief on Lands Geological Survey Antonio Apostol Jr. said on the sidelines of a briefing on Tuesday in Quezon City.
In 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the term of then-Secretary Gina Lopez, issued a Department Administrative Order (DAO) that imposed a ban on open-pit mining due to its allegedly destructive effects to environment. Coupled with a series of environmental audits, the moratorium resulted in the closure of many of the country’s mines.
Apostol said open-pit mining is “safer and cheaper” than other mining methods, including underground mining.
However, he also admitted that companies also face many challenges in operating open-pit mining. “In open-pit [mining], you see the big equipment, hauling materials, so it is very visible. That’s what makes it an eyesore. You get a large area without any vegetation, very dusty, all these have negative impact to people,” Apostol said. However, he added, reforestation and progressive rehabilitation could offset the environmental damages brought by open-pit mining.
Engr. Rodolfo Velasco Jr., MGB division chief on mine safety, environment and social development, said the moratorium has frozen investment on some of the country’s undeveloped mines ,such as the Tampakan gold-copper deposit in South Cotabato.
Open-pit mining under the term of current Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is no longer banned, but it is suspended indefinitely until the affected miners take measures to correct environmental compliance failures, a process which takes months.
Environment Undersecretary for Climate Change Service and Mining Concerns Analiza Rebuelta-Teh earlier said mining companies should look at other methods that are “less intrusive” or could be undertaken with immediate rehabilitation upon mineral extraction.
The Philippines has so far mined only less than 2 percent of the total 30 million hectares of areas that can be mined, she added.