A Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Balik Scientist recipient has proposed the establishment of a multidisciplinary research group to focus on the uses of phytoremediation in the country following his study on the capability of indigenous plants to rid soil pollution in mining areas.

Dr. Augustine Doronila, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia, said it is worth studying the various aspects of phytoremediation, which uses living plants to mop up pollution in the environment like metal contaminants in the soil, and restores ecological balance in a mining area.

DOST’s Balik Scientist Program started in 1975 under which Filipino scientists abroad are encouraged to return to the country and conduct trainings, seminars, lectures, projects and evaluation for the benefit of the Filipino scientific community.

Last year, a total of 38 Balik Scientists heeded the call and came back to their native country.
Doronila proposed the establishment of the research group, to be called the Philippine Metalophyte Research Consortium, to be based in the Ateneo de Manila University with a mission of determining the botanical, chemistry, biological, geological, ecological, and anthropological aspects of implementing phytoremediation.

According to Doronila, there are endemic plant species in the country that can help restore mine-damaged soils. His research on phytoremediation revealed that it can “help clean tainted environment.”

Doronila discovered a possible new nickel hyper accumulator that belongs to the Euphorbiacea family during a recent visit to Zambales.

“Tropical hyper accumulator plants are most likely found on ultramafic or serpentine rock formations,”
he said, explaining that ultramafic soils often contain high concentrations of magnesium and some toxic metals.

Wastes from mining activities, particularly the extraction and processing of mineral resources, are laden with heavy metals and chemicals that can seriously contaminate soil and water. Exposure to these contaminants affects people’s health and livelihood.

“Once the soil is restored, earnings can go up as high as P165,000 net per hectare,” Doronila said, basing his figures in an actual phytoremediated base-metal smelter in South Africa.

The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest producers of copper, nickel, chrome, zinc, gold and silver. The mining industry contributed an estimated $1.4 billion in the gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

[Source: http://mb.com.ph/articles/202231/indigenous-plants-vs-mine-pollutants]

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