A CAGAYAN de Oro City environment official said the decision of environment Secretary Regina Lopez to cancel 75 mining contracts nationwide is a welcome development.

On Tuesday, Lopez ordered the cancellation of mineral production sharing agreements of several mining companies, which are operating or doing exploration activities in watershed areas.

Edwin Dael, the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro) chief, said the adverse effects of mining outweigh the advantages.

While it is true that mining firms employ many people for their operations but the destruction of the environment is far more costly than the livelihood through mineral extraction.

“The damage through mining is irreversible. It would be next to impossible to restore a heavily mined or logged area to its original state,” Dael said.

He said the cost-benefit of mining is not enough to compensate its impact not just to the environment but to the people.

“Mining companies build schools, health centers in communities but they are also destroying the mountains, the coral reefs which are threatening our fisherfolk and farmers, and our food security,” he said.

Instead of ordering an all-out ban on mining, Dael said the government must push for what is called as “responsible mining,” believed to be more environment-friendly than the traditional method of mineral extraction.

Since he sat as Clenro chief, Dael said his office and Task Force Kinaiyahan, a multi-sectoral group composed mostly of representatives from the law enforcement community and civil society, have been conducting anti-mining operations.

Since 2013, more than 20 persons have been arrested for conducting mineral extraction activities, with 12 already convicted and nine now facing charges.

Due to their frequent operations, Dael said illegal mining activities have been in decline in the last three years.

To ensure that those who engaged in illegal mining do not go back to their traditional livelihood, Clenro and the City Agriculture Office have extended assistance to the residents in the upland villages of Tumpagon, Pigsag-an, Tuburan, Taglimao and Pagalungan.

He said former miners were given livelihood assistance as well as technical trainings on entrepreneurial ventures, while others went back to farming.

Dael said other local governments should look at the success stories of the people formerly engaged in illegal mining here.

“If Cagayan de Oro can do it, I think there’s still hope for other areas to abandon illegal mining and save the environment and their children’s future,” he added.

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