Local officials welcome coal mining in Gubat, Sorsogon

GUBAT, Sorsogon, Sept. 17 (PNA) -- The Department of Energy (DoE) has recently awarded a coal operating contract (COC) to a private firm that offered a P15.20-million work commitment for the two-year exploration of the 3,000-hectare coal-rich property in this second class farming and fishing municipality.

This is a welcome development for the municipality as the mining operations will certainly offer jobs for the local labor force, boost trade and commerce, open investment opportunities for small and medium scale entrepreneurs and generate revenue for the town coffer, Mayor Deogracias Ramos said here Thursday.

As long as the mining firm awarded the COC abides by the mining and environmental protection laws and does not violate local ordinances, the town's administration would be supportive of this venture, Ramos said.

The municipal legislative council would be willing to endorse the grant of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to the mining firm once it is sought, given the benefits that the coal mining activities will bring to the locality and to the country's quest for independence from imported sources of energy, Vice Mayor Danilo Pura who presides over the council, said.

"That is if the mining firm would be able to satisfy all the legal requirements for such endorsement," Pura added.

The 3,000-hectare coal site here, according to Ramos, is an upland area located in the southwestern section of the municipality. Aside from coal, it also contains an undetermined amount of reserves of untapped resources like limestone, pumice, sulfur and white clay.

The mayor said coal is the largest and one of the cheapest sources of fuel for generating electricity worldwide. However, it is also the largest source of carbon dioxide emission, which is one of the culprits in the global environment's deterioration.

The government is currently pushing for the development of the coal industry to fill in the country's short-term power needs since it may take awhile for renewable energy sources to make a big dent in electricity supply, he added.

On Wednesday, the DoE awarded 11 COCs to seven coal mining companies to explore several coal reserves in prospected areas across the country.

The COC for Gubat was awarded to Lima Coal Development Corporation (LCDC).

DoE Undersecretary Ramon Oca, in a statement Thursday, said the 11 COCs are expected to bring in new investments amounting to nearly US$ 600 million in the next two years.

At the same time, Oca said the promotion of local coal exploration and development through the COCs will bring about energy security and generate savings from importations of energy sources.

He added, the sooner the country gets to lessen its coal importation, it will result in foreign-exchange savings. About 70 percent of the country's coal requirement is imported, while only 30 percent is sourced locally from Semirara Mining Corp., the Energy undersecretary explained.

While perceived as a "dirty fuel," Oca pointed out that there are existing clean-coal technologies that would or could lessen its impact on the environment. "We can produce clean coal through clean-coal technologies," he added.

The introduction of clean coal technologies such as circulating fluidized bed combustion to ensure utilization of Philippine coals with minimal adverse effects on the environment and the putting-up of mine-mouth power plants designed to utilize the abundant low-rank coals that have no alternative markets have also been key investment areas, he said. (PNA)