Bio+Mine: Biodiversity positive mining for the net zero challenge


Sto. Niño mines in the Tublay municipality of Benguet District in northern Luzon, Philippines.

Project overview

The mining industry supplies metals that are essential for not only modern society’s development but also the success of the energy transition that is needed to limit the impacts of climate change.

However, mines can have a negative impact on the ecosystem, including local biodiversity and stakeholder communities. Abandoned or legacy mines are challenging to rehabilitate because of widespread water and soil contamination, making re-establishing landscapes for biodiversity, agriculture and economies to support local communities in the long term problematic. Therefore, holistic approaches are needed, incorporating biology, geology, engineering, and environmental and social sciences to develop sustainable interventions with local communities that will mitigate environmental and societal issues accompanying mining whilst still delivering the metals critical for the future green economy.

The Bio+Mine project focuses on the Sto. Niño legacy mine, a former gold-copper mine in Tublay in the Benguet province of the Philippines that was closed and abandoned in 1982. The site comprises a former open pit and block caving operation with rock waste dumps and a tailings storage facility. The mine had no significant formal rehabilitation, but indigenous people now live and farm in the area. 

Our aims

The Bio+Mine project will deliver an in-depth audit of the abandoned site, specifically the geological, hydrological, ecological and social parameters. Together with local Indigenous People communities, we will develop approaches for the site as a tool for co-designing nature and people-positive interventions to regenerate the legacy mine site. This site-specific system, underpinned by the local community’s knowledge and practices, will be a model for wider implementation in other legacy and active mines in the Philippines and worldwide.

Who is involved?

The project brings together an international team from leading research institutions in the UK, Philippines and Australia with a track record in cutting-edge social sciences and applied and fundamental research on sustainable use of resources. The team comprises a multidisciplinary community of social, environmental, geomicrobiological, plant, geological and chemical scientists, systems engineers, and remote sensing experts.

Our methods

We will use inclusive social science approaches and innovative technologies from remote sensing and cutting-edge mineralogical and chemical analyses, DNA sequencing, soil biodiversity assessment, and water treatment techniques to laboratory-based microbial-driven metal recovery.

Local communities have often been excluded from the planning and development of mines and, more specifically, in the rehabilitation of legacy mines. Communities should be an integral part of the mining process to ensure that projects succeed with sustainable outcomes. Community views, beliefs, perceptions, aspirations, knowledge, skills and experience are all critical inputs in the planning and implementation of nature-positive post-mining strategies.

Social engagement is at the forefront of the Bio+Mine programme, involving communities as co-creators of future strategies to ensure that the project carries local trust that will be essential for a successful outcome.

Geological surveys will measure how the chemistry and mineralogy vary across the site. We can observe if and how the source rock minerals and processed wastes are breaking down and if they are forming new minerals or releasing chemicals that may be bioavailable, accumulated by plants or moved and distributed by the water system.

These analyses will enable an assessment of any economic potential within the legacy waste materials, how to prevent any potentially harmful chemicals from being released and what is required to transform them into stable soil for indigenous plants or to be utilized by the local community.

Microorganisms play a crucial role in biogeochemical cycles of mineral and metal transformations. Bioremediation and bioprocessing are techniques where microorganisms are used for extracting, removing, converting or degrading harmful contaminants into less harmful compounds. Microbes can also interact with the roots of plants in ways that affect plant growth, health and resistance to environmental stressors.

DNA sequencing of microbiomes in the soils and associated with plant roots may help improve rehabilitation efforts by developing phytoremediation strategies where plants are used to remove heavy metals from the soil.

Our role

The Museum’s role in the project will include:

  • Completing a mineralogical-chemical audit of the site, enabling the fate of target, novel and potentially hazardous minerals and elements to be tracked.
  • DNA sequencing of soil, water and rhizosphere microbiomes of metal accumulating plants.
  • Studying microbes for the application in metal-containing by-products generated from mine waste processing and treatment of acid mine drainage.
  • Provide baseline measures for ongoing monitoring and dynamic observation of the site.
  • Contribute towards developing decision-making tools for local stakeholders using remote sensing and environmental data.


Our research will gain new and in-depth data for the Sto. Niño legacy mine, and work with local communities in the development of sustainable mitigation strategies to improve the rehabilitation of soils and water in agricultural environments.

The outcomes will contribute to the wider implementation of rehabilitation strategies in other legacy mines in the future. This site-specific system, underpinned by local community knowledge and practices, will be a model for wider implementation in other legacy and active mines worldwide.

Project summary

Focus: Rehabilitation of post-mining landscapes in the Philippines.

Dates: 1 August 2022 - 31 March 2024

Funding: DEFRA GCBC 

Museum lead investigators

Project Lead

Dr Paul Schofield

Senior Responsible Officer

Prof Richard Herrington 

Bio+Mine webpage

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