On August 31, 2023, the Bio+Mine PH Team presented the ecological activities of the Bio+Mine project during the Regular Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) Meeting held at the H100 Ecolodge, Baguio City. The presentation to the Board was a part of the PAMB clearance application for Bio+Mine to construct a screen house for mesocosm experiments at the Bugtong Family Farm located at Sto. Niño mine site, a part of the protected Upper Agno River Basin Resource Reserve.
The meeting started with an invocation followed by a roll call of the PAMB Committee members and research presenters. Engr. Ralph Pablo, the Regional Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR) presided over the meeting. Other attendees include: the PAMB Head Secretariat and Protected Area Superintendent, PAMB committee members, and the Bio+Mine research team.
Dr. Arnel Beltran, the Bio+Mine PH Team project lead, presented the activities conducted at Sto. Niño mine site since 2022. He also introduced the multidisciplinary members of the Bio+Mine team.
Following Dr. Beltran’s presentation, Janna Andalan, a Bio+Mine ecological team research assistant, discussed in detail the ecological aspects of the study, including the findings of previous studies conducted by the team in the area, such as the metals present in plants as well as earthworms collected. She also emphasized the purpose and importance of the screen house construction in the mesocosm experiments, which the results will inform the formulation of sustainable rehabilitation strategies for Sto. Niño mine site.
After the team’s presentation, Engr. Pablo commended the team for initiating a significant project for the local community and for communities living near legacy mine sites worldwide. During the discussion, there were issues raised by the community.
First, the committee asked about the source of the plants to be grown in the screen house. The team answered that they will only be growing local plants in the area to successfully mimic their behavior in their natural environment.
Second, the committee asked why the Bio+Mine team is rehabilitating the site when there is a mine rehabilitation fund allotted for legacy mine sites. Dr. Arnel Beltran addressed this by saying that the DENR Administrative Order establishing the said fund was only put into law in 2005, and it predates the abandonment of the Sto. Niño legacy mine site, which was closed roughly 40 years ago.
Lastly, the committee inquired if they would be receiving a copy of the study results so that they can be made aware of the risks posed by mine site, to which both Dr. Beltran and Engr. Pablo assured them that it is required for researchers to furnish local agencies a physical copy of the research once available.
After the deliberations, the Board approved the application and granted a PAMB Clearance to proceed with the construction of the screen house.