Growing Diversity

Mining affects biodiversity ?

Alexis Vaughan of GRAIN chats to Jonjon Sarmiento from the Philippines

Mining affects biodiversity?

Yes of course. Mining can have an impact on water, fauna, flora and land rights, and consequently will have an important on biodiversity. In Oriental Mindoro, one of the Philippine islands, a Canadian mining company is threatening an area of 9,720 hectares to extract nickel and cobalt. The land has been protected by a moratorium on mining to preserve the rich biodiversity of the area. However, the company has now appealed to a court and the area is once again under threat.

But how can a mine affect biodiversity, and in particular agricultural biodiversity?

A mine can destroy the basic elements of biodiversity. Take water as an example. The entire catchment area will be affected, much more than the 9,720 hectares mentioned before. This water can be polluted from the residues and siltation can cause problems. The processing of nickel and cobalt also uses acid, and this of course ends up in the water. Even the seas have suffered. The residues could now be dumped at sea using a much criticised method known as Submarine Tailings Discharge as an alternative to dumping on the land, which would could have dramatic consequences for the sea. Another aspect is the logging rights to the area. Remember that this area is rich in biodiversity, and much of this will disappear through logging. The indigenous people will also suffer - they will lose their ancestral rights to the area. This could also lead to bio-piracy as plants and their genes are sold off as patents to companies from abroad.

So where can people find out more information about this?

There is an organisation called ALAMIN, a broad alliance of church organisations, environmental activists, human rights groups, farmers' organisations, organisations working with social issues and indigenous peoples' federations, which has been set up with the aim of stopping the entire project. You can contact their Secretary General, Edwin Gariguez, by email at There are also some websites which you can view such as: which provides an excellent overview of the issue.

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