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Researchers to model Philippine mining contamination in new £1.5m project

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Researchers from Brunel University London are to play a key role in a new £1.5m project to boost sustainable mining in the Philippines.

Funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology, the PAMANA project aims to develop a fuller understanding of the ecological impact of mining on the country’s rivers.

A major collaboration between five UK and four Philippine universities, Brunel will primarily be involved in developing 2D and 3D models to simulate how contaminated sediment from mines travels through the Philippine river basins, and how future changes caused by flooding and climate change will alter the contamination.

“Model outputs will be used to inform national and local authorities of contamination risk, and so will be used to inform land-use, flood management and development planning,” said Prof Trevor Hoey, Director of the Centre for Flood Risk and Resilience at Brunel.

“The outputs will also aid in identifying potential locations for processing the waste sediment to recover economically valuable minerals.”

The researchers will use a model known as CAESAR-Lisflood, which will simulate how rainfall flows through the Phillippines’ river channels, and then use this flow to model how sediment is transported. Sediment can be ‘tagged’ within the model to represent contamination, allowing the researchers to predict where the contamination will end up over different time scales.

“The model can then be used to simulate the effect of natural events, such as failure of mine tailings dams, and also of management interventions, so providing a tool for land managers,” said Prof Hoey.

Dr Enrico Paringit, Executive Director at the Department of Science and Technology at the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology (DOST-PCIEERD) said: “The extractive industry remains one of the biggest contributors to the economy in many parts of the world. Through active collaboration, we expect research efforts to shed light on the impacts of mining activities to the environment and find viable solutions and alternatives as we march forward to sustainability goals.”

PAMANA is an international collaboration between Brunel and the University of Glasgow, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Hull, University of Exeter, and four Philippine universities.

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