River pollution from mining


University of Hull research to develop more sustainable approach to mining in the Philippines

The University of Hull has secured prestigious funding to develop a new approach to sustainable mining in the Philippines.

The project, worth £1.5M, is co-funded by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council and the Philippines Department of Science and Technology.

It is a major international collaboration for the University of Hull with four other UK universities: the University of Glasgow, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Exeter, Brunel University London and four universities in the Philippines.

Professor Thomas Coulthard, who is Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Hull and will be leading the numerical modelling components for the research, said: “There is a 100 year history of intensive mining in the Philippines – that has left a legacy of contaminated land and water, sometimes leading to negative outcomes on the health and wellbeing of local communities.

“We are working hard to develop more sustainable methods for managing past, present and future mining. I will be using numerical modelling to tackle the threat of contaminants in the river systems – which allows us to track how long contaminants will have an impact and how climate change and extreme weather may exacerbate the situation.”

Global targets for a net zero carbon economy hang on the development of clean energy technologies (wind, solar, electric) that are far more complex than traditional hydrocarbon-based technologies.

For example, a typical electric car requires six times more mineral resources than a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.

This ‘clean energy transition’ is set to triple global demand for so-called ‘technology critical minerals’ by 2040.

However, mining these minerals has an enormous carbon footprint and historical mining has given rise to a variety of environmental and social issues worldwide.

The Philippines, for example, has globally significant deposits of technology critical minerals. A nine-year national moratorium on new mining activities was lifted in April 2021. This heightens interest in investigating how mining can take place in a sustainable fashion that minimises environmental impacts whilst supplying the mineral resources critical to meeting global net-zero targets and mitigating climate change.

The aim of project PAMANA (Filipino, meaning ‘legacy’ or ‘heritage’) is to provide a holistic understanding of the legacy, present and future environmental and ecological impacts of mining on Philippine river systems.

The ultimate goal of project PAMANA is to enable a new era of sustainable mining in the Philippines by developing practices and policies that empower government agencies, mining companies, scientists, and communities to minimise the environmental and ecological impacts of mining.

Many of the methods and ideas from PAMANA are globally applicable, including for the UK and Yorkshire, where lead and zinc mining in the 18th and 19th century deposited contaminants in rivers and floodplains that are still there today.

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