MINING companies should keep pockets of biodiversity or forest ecosystems within their mining tenements intact for the purpose of wildlife conservation.
Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity, said these pockets of biodiversity can provide safe haven to plant and animal wildlife during mining operations, where forests are shaved and mountains are carved to extract minerals.
“These pockets of biodiversity could later on be a source of recruits when the company begins to rehabilitate mined-out areas,” Lim told the BusinessMirror in an interview at the sidelines of the Philippine Nickel Association Inc. (PNIA) Nickel Initiative event held in Makati City on Tuesday.
A former director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Lim was invited as one of the panel of experts to talk about biodiversity conservation in mining areas.
Member-companies of PNIA, besides discussing fiscal and regulatory regimes and other challenges faced by the nickel industry, also looked into enhancing the development impact of the mining sector’s environment and social development programs.
Dante Bravo, president of PNIA, touted as the largest grouping of nickel-mining firms in the Philippines, expressed support to the DENR’s ongoing review of Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programs (EPEP) as well as the agency’s Social Development and Management Programs (SDMP).
“Any industry development effort should translate to sustainable economic development, particularly to impact communities. PNIA members have consistently demonstrated how we deliver beyond compliance to uphold the welfare of our host communities and to progressively rehabilitate the environment,” Bravo said.
Lim, who advocates the mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation, said mining companies could also help conserve the country’s biodiversity by protecting and conserving areas within or near their mining tenements.
Lim said mining companies should also comply with the provisions of the Philippine Mining Act, which mandates progressive rehabilitation.
This means that during mining operations, areas that have already been mined out should be rehabilitated, while the company is starting to extract minerals in other areas.
Before mining, Lim said mining companies should establish baseline data and identify threatened or endangered species, whether plants or animals, so that they can later measure the success of their rehabilitation.
“Of course, they need to conduct a study to establish baseline data so that they will know what we are about to lose and what we need to bring back after mining,” she said.
Lim also encouraged mining companies to plant native trees, instead of fast-growing species, or grow protection forests rather than production forests, to conserve biodiversity.
“That’s why they need to establish baseline data before mining because it is important to know what naturally occurs in that area,” she said.
Image credits: Angie Metin