CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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Uproar over restart of open pit mining

MANILA (UCAN): A decision of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council of The Philippines to lift the ban placed on open pit mining by the fired secretary for the environment, Gina Lopez, has drawn criticism from many quarters, especially indigenous peoples, areas heavily dependent on agriculture or the fish industry, as well as conservationists.
 
Father Edwin Gariguez, from Caritas Philippines, described the decision to end the ban as a backward step by government away from a policy designed specifically to protect the environment.
 
The current environment secretary, Roy Cimatu, supports the plan, which is the reason he was able to win approval from the powerful congressional committee that hands out approvals for presidential nominees for such positions whose members have big interests in mining.
 
It was this very same group that ganged up on Lopez and refused to accept her appointment after she was hand-picked by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to enact his campaign promise of promoting a clean and protected natural environment.
 
Cimatu is even expressing hope that the ban can be lifted before the end of the year so the bulldozers and cutting saws can get to work as soon as possible.
 
The lifting of the ban will allow some large-scale mining projects, including the US$5.9 billion ($45.7 billion) Tampakan copper and gold mine in the southern Philippines to get under way.
 
Open-pit mining was allowed under Philippine mining law until Lopez banned it last year because it has a bad track record of degrading the environment, often resulting in the silting of rivers, drying up of water supplies or contaminating the water, as well as being responsible for salinating of the soil and even landslides and consequent flooding.
 
Father Gariguez said Cimatu should make a similar stand for the environment and implement Duterte’s promise not to allow destructive mining.
 
“Mr. Cimatu has a mandate to protect the environment, not the interests of the mining corporations,” he said.
 
Father Gariguez added that Duterte must prove his commitment to protecting the environment by overriding the recommendation of the government panel.
 
Clemente Bautista, from the environmental group, Kalikasan, said the lifting of the ban would allow mining on agricultural land.
 
“It will adversely affect the balance of nature, displace farmers and indigenous peoples and threaten the nation’s food security,” he said.
 
Non-government groups like the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc and the Alliance to Stop Mining also voiced concern over the government plan. Mining advocates, however, described it as a positive step for the industry.

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