Filipino scientist to clean up mining mess

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Filipino returning scientist is proposing to develop a solution to clean up areas that have been ruined by mining contamination.

Agustine Doronila, a University of Melbourne senior research fellow, said that he was willing to help establish a “phytoremediation” research group that would harness plants to recover contaminants from the ground and water, thereby restoring ecological balance in a mining area.

Doronila is now part of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Balik Scientist Program.

Doronila said the research, dubbed the Philippine Metalophyte Research Consortium, would be based in Ateneo De Manila University.

He said there are endemic plants in the country that could be used for phytoremediation. These include the spurge plant or Euphobiaceae (scientific name Phyllanthus balgooyi), which has been described in a study by botanist Domingo Madulid as a "hyper accumulator" or a plant that could absorb large quantities of heavy metals.

Other plants considered for phytoremediation are the Meliceae, Ochnaceae and Dichapetalaceae.

The Filipino scientist said the yield of contaminated farmlands is only about P5,500 per hectare. But farms that have undergone phytoremediation could produce P165,000 of crops per hectare.

The Philippines produces various metals, including chromite, copper, nickel and gold.

Statistics from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau show there are 24 operating medium to large scale metallic mines in the country, up from 18 in 2006.

There are also about 800 abandoned mines all over the country.

Doronila said that mining contamination could affect people's livelihood and health.


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