Big miners taking steps to protect Palawan environment, says Chamber of Mines

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MANILA, Philippines—The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has defended the big mining investments in Palawan, saying they have complied with the law and rehabilitated mined-out areas in the province.

Gerard Brimo, president and CEO of the Nickel Asia Corp., a member of the Chamber of Mines, branded as “misinformation” claims that the mining industry would only exploit the fragile environment of Palawan that has been noted for its rich biodiversity.

Speaking for the chamber, Brimo said unregulated activities such as agriculture, domestic consumption, slash-and-burn farming and small-scale – if not illegal mining – had a greater adverse impact on Palawan’s natural resources.

“We don’t rape the land. We mine it, as others do all over the world, and after mining, we rehabilitate. That’s what we do,” Brimo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters in a presentation Thursday night.

“The mining we do is no different from the mining done in other parts of the world. But it’s very much attacked in the Philippines. I wonder why,” said Brimo, who has worked in other large-scale mining firms and has been in the industry for 30 years.

He said claims of environmental abuse made against the mining industry, of late by the Save Palawan Movement, were “pure misinformation” and were “meant to mislead” the public through the use of the old data and photos of bad mining practices in the past.
Brimo said such information “had no relevance to the mining debate” of today, with the industry thoroughly scrutinized by government and strictly compliant with the mining law, particularly the requirement to rehabilitate mined-out areas.

He said only three large-scale nickel mining operations have been going on in Palawan to date – Berong Nickel, Rio Tuba Nickel and Citinickel – and that all have been undergoing regular monitoring by government.

Brimo added that mining operations have put in place measures so as not to compromise primary forests and protected areas in Palawan. Mining is only done in areas where the soil is rich with laterite nickel, according to Brimo.

“One can’t make the case that Palawan is 100 percent biodiverse. That is not true. Biodiversity is in areas in northern Palawan,” said Brimo.

Debunking the argument that mining could affect food security, Brimo said areas mined were found to be “not fit for intensive agriculture” as highly mineralized soil would only have grasses and “stunted shrubs.”

He said mining firms also reforested trees in mined-out areas, even leaving mined-out areas with vegetation “better than the environment when we found it.”

For instance, in the town of Bataraza in Palawan, Rio Tuba mining has reforested some 238 hectares of mined-out land, replanting almost 800,000 trees in the area. He said the firm also documented wildlife that re-established habitat in the mining areas.

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