NERC invests in sustainable future for Philippine minerals

Gold nuggets the hands of a miner

The Natural Environment Research Council is co-funding five projects to help develop research that will address and reduce the impact of mining in the Philippines.

The south-east Asian country is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world and has the potential to contribute to meeting the increasing global demand for mineral resources.

Green technology

Its mineral resources, for example gold, nickel, chromite and copper, are used in green technology including in:

  • electric vehicles
  • wind turbines
  • carbon capture storage.

Initial funding has been awarded by:

  • NERC
  • Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology (DOST-PCIEERD).

The funding will enable scientists to develop partnerships and project teams across the UK and Philippines. They will work with stakeholders to understand the research needs essential to delivering a route to sustainable mineral production in the Philippines.

Further funding

A further grant of up to £1.2 million and 15 million Philippine Pesos will be available to two successful teams later this year.

The team will deliver three-year research programmes to:

  • understand the impact of mining practices
  • develop innovative approaches to the production of minerals that minimise negative impacts on the environment and the wellbeing of communities.

UK investment in overseas projects such as these will help ensure Paris Agreement legal targets to reduce global warming can be achieved in the most sustainable way possible. This will benefit not just local but global populations.

Strengthening the mining sector

Dr Enrico C Paringit, Executive Director of DOST-PCIEERD, said:

As a leader and partner in enabling research and development, DOST-PCIEERD will remain steadfast in finding ways to promote innovation in the mining sector, find new ways of rehabilitating mined areas, develop solutions that support a green future, capacitate and empower researchers on minerals and mining, as well as boost competitiveness and productivity of university laboratories and facilities to conduct researches.

The council is grateful for this partnership with NERC and for joining us in strengthening the mining sector in the Philippines through research and development. Thank you to all the researchers for the strong commitment in working towards attaining an inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable community.

Dr Sarah Webb, Associate Director for International at NERC, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:

We are pleased to be partnering with DOST-PCIEERD to enable UK and Philippine researchers to develop truly collaborative research projects which we hope will lead to sustainable pathways to mineral production in the Philippines.

Funding will support the development of a strategic large grant proposal to address essential research needs following the initial partnership building phase.

Tackling climate change

This work adds to UKRI’s councils’ long tradition of investing in cutting-edge research and innovation to understand, tackle and mitigate the effects of climate change.

This year the UK hosts the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit in November. UKRI will use its role as a steward of the research and innovation system to bring our communities together. We aim to create sustainable and resilient solutions and encourage new behaviours and new ways of living that enable the UK to reach net zero by 2050.

Further information

The grant was awarded from the NERC partnerships and opportunities programme.

Project summaries

SusNi – Developing a sustainable pathway for the Philippine nickel sector

Led by:

  • Paul Lusty (British Geological Survey, UK)
  • Professor Romell Seronay (Caraga State University, Philippines).

This project will assess the impacts of mining, but also explore novel techniques for mineral exploration, metal extraction and recovery, and environmental monitoring. These will be considered within the socio-economic context of the Caraga region, using an approach based on Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA).

The project will:

  • identify the key knowledge gaps
  • refine the research questions that need to be addressed
  • create the multidisciplinary partnerships required to develop a SESA framework for the nickel sector in the Caraga region of the Philippines.

PROMT: Philippines remediation of mine tailings

Led by:

  • Professor Gawen Jenkin (University of Leicester, UK)
  • Professor Carlo Arcilla (Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, Philippines).

This project aims to build an innovative research programme to test sustainable tailings management, remediation and rehabilitation.

The ambitions of this project are to:

  • produce tailings with less water consumption and greater stability and show how they can be monitored and adaptively managed in real time
  • enable the processing of modern and legacy tailings to recover more metals, whilst decontaminating them, encouraging rehabilitation and long-term stabilisation and re-use of the associated ecosystem services.

Philippine mining at the national to catchment scale: from legacy impacts to sustainable futures

Led by:

  • Dr Richard Williams (University of Glasgow, UK)
  • Dr Decibel Faustino-Eskava (University of the Philippines Los Banos, Philippines).

This project aims to develop a proposal to realise a combined geomorphological and biogeochemical based management approach to remediate waste and protect the environment, at national- to catchment-scales.

This will enable catchment management practitioners to remediate legacy metal mining impacts. It will protect ecosystems and humans from the potentially negative effects of metal mine contaminants arising from current and future mining activities.

SAGES: Systems approach for greener, eco-efficient and sustainable mineral resource management

Led by:

  • Dr Pablo Rafael Brito Parada (Imperial College London, UK)
  • Dr Arnel Beltran (De La Salle University, Philippines).

This project brings together the multidisciplinary expertise of:

  • industry leaders
  • scientists
  • technology experts
  • community leaders
  • policy makers.

It will develop a research programme for greener, eco-efficient, and sustainable mineral resource management in the Philippines.

SAGES will develop a circular economy mining framework using a systems approach to address three mine waste categories:

  • tailings and silts
  • mine drainage
  • polluted soils.

Transforming legacy mines into future mines and mine wastes into secondary resources can simultaneously:

  • reduce waste generation
  • provide additional economic benefits to stakeholders
  • empower host communities
  • improve rehabilitation programmes.

This project will provide the paradigm shift necessary to stimulate growth of the resource extraction sector in the Philippines.

A framework for the sustainable development of marine mineral resources in the Philippines

Led by:

  • Dr Ian Selby (University of Plymouth, UK)
  • Teodorico Sandoval (Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Philippines).

This project will promote socio-economic development and personal and community welfare through constructive sharing of experience, expertise and innovation in managing offshore mineral resources.

This will include:

  • mineral exploration
  • resource assessment and management
  • governance
  • policymaking
  • regulation and planning
  • use of innovative technologies from exploration to monitoring
  • researching environmental impact assessments, environmental risks, mitigation and monitoring performance.

The project will research, share and develop knowledge, experience, technologies and best practices from:

  • exploration
  • resource management
  • regulation
  • environmental impact assessments
  • permitting and extraction across all marine mineral resource activities.

Top image:  Credit: spfdigital/GettyImages

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