When a volcano in Guatemala becomes a pizza kitchen
by Marcelle P. Villegas - September 01, 2021
[As fiery lava flows from Pacaya Volcano in southern Guatemala, David Garcia bakes pizza in his improvised kitchen. (Photo credit/video screenshots from: EuroNews / NoComment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nKZ__lWexo)]
In the Philippines, Taal Volcano recently manifested strong volcanic tremors in Batangas which the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) declared as Intensity II. This happened last August 12 at 4:36am. While local residents are normally encouraged to evacuate before the volcano’s activity escalates into dangerous levels, in Guatemala, the opposite was done last summer by some tourists.
In an article from “Forbes” online magazine by a freelance geologist and contributing writer, David Bressan, he tells the story of an accountant who cooks pizza using the volcanic heat in Pacaya volcano in Guatemala. Bressan’s article is titled “In Guatemala You Can Enjoy The Experience Of Eating Pizza Made On Volcanic Heat”.
“Guatemala's Pacaya volcano is erupting, spewing rivers of lava and ash clouds, keeping local communities and authorities on high alert.”
Instead of avoiding the area, David Garcia, a 34-year-old accountant, saw the fiery mountainside as an opportunity to make “Pacaya Pizza”. While lava was oozing down the volcano, the glowing volcanic rocks fascinated tourists and locals.
Garcia told news reporters, "Many people today come to enjoy the experience of eating pizza made on volcanic heat."
Pacaya volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and in Central America. It is 2,500 meters high and located 30 kilometers south of Guatemala City and close to Antigua. It was dormant for more than 70 years but started erupting again in 1961, and has been erupting often ever since. In March 2021, it had two strong explosions. After four months of being calm, it showed some activity again last August 5; however, it was a low-level activity. 
Pacaya volcano is part of the Central American Volcanic Arc. This is a chain of volcanoes from the northwest to the southeast of the Pacific coast of Central America. This was formed by the tectonic subduction of the Cocos Tectonic Plate below the Caribbean Plate. 
Garcia and his friends chose a spot on the rocky area that leads to Pacaya crater. In there, Garcia prepares the dough and pizza toppings on a metal platter that can withstand 1,000°C.
“Wearing protective clothing from head to his military style boots, Garcia places the pizza on the lava. After ten minutes on the 200°C to 300°C hot rocks the pizza is done.” 
“Lava emerges at temperatures of 1,000 to 1,200ºC, but when the lava's temperature has decreased to 800°C it quickly forms an insulating crust, keeping the interior still very hot. It can take years to decades for lava within thick flows to solidify. It takes much longer for the flow to cool to ambient temperatures.” 
Cooking pizza using volcanic rocks is a practice that Garcia first tried in 2013. This year when Pacaya was regularly erupting, he cooked pizza directly on the moving lava flows.
This is indeed a risky activity since an active volcano also expels toxic ash, gases and even pieces of rocks.
The practice of using lava stones is actually a traditional cooking method in most countries where volcanoes are nearby. It is because “lava rocks distribute the heat uniformly and releases it gradually.”  The slow heat release is optimal for cooking, according to those familiar with this method.
Cooking eggs and ham on fresh lava or in hot springs is a traditional experiment among volcanologists, according to Bressan’s report. “During the ongoing eruption in Iceland, scientists and tourists cooked toast and sausages on the cooling lava flows. Some even concluded this meal with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.”
The Philippines and Guatemala are similar in many ways with regards to the tropical climate and volcanic features, according to Professor Wayne Allen Parrott from University of Georgia, U.S.A. Back in November 2016, I had the chance to interview Prof. Parrott during one of his science lectures in the Philippines, organised by the U.S Embassy and AmCham Philippines. Prof. Parrott is an award-winning American scientist in the field of agronomy, genetics and biotechnology, and he grew up in Guatemala. During the interview, he mentions that one of the things he likes about the Philippines is its similarity to Guatemala. “I grew up in a tropical region, very much like the Philippines. The plant life all around me was amazing, and the diversity of plants fascinated me.” And another thing common between the Philippines and Guatemala are the numerous volcanoes present which makes the soil optimal for biodiversity while the volcano is inactive.
Do you think it is safe to use hot volcanic rocks for cooking? What do you think of David Garcia’s pizza treat for tourists at Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano?
 Bressan, David (14 May 2021). Forbes. " In Guatemala You Can Enjoy The Experience Of Eating Pizza Made On Volcanic Heat ". Retrieved from - https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidbressan/2021/05/14/in-guatemala-you-can-enjoy-the-experience-of-eating-pizza-made-on-volcanic-heat/
Marcelle P. Villegas - May 29, 2019
Is the East Mindanao Volcanic Arc Lost, Buried or Eroded?
By Marcelle P. Villegas During the GeoCon 2018 last year in December, a study about East Mindanao Volcanic Arc by Dr. Graciano Yumul, Jr. and his team, C.B. Dimalanta, J.A. Gabo-Ratio, B.D. Payot, et. al., was presented. The title is "East Mindanao Volcanic Arc, Philippines: Lost, Buried or Eroded?". The members of the study are from Apex Mining Company, Inc. (Pasig City) and Rushurgent Working Group, National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines (Diliman, Quezon City). It seems apparent that whenever an oceanic plate subducts along a trench, this would result into the formation of a volcanic arc. There may also be a formation of geothermal fields, mineralization, accretion of oceanic plates and subduction erosion. The Philippine Mobile Belt also plays a role in this study. The Philippine Mobile Belt is a complex portion of the tectonic boundary between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This includes the Manila Trench to the west and the Philippine Trench to the east, and the Philippine Fault System. This belt is notable to having numerous of crustal blocks or microplates. Now based on the report, the eastern boundary of the Philippine Mobile Belt is characterized by the reactivated East Luzon Trough which shares a common transform boundary with the west-dipping Philippine Trench. “It has been argued that the East Luzon Trough-Philippine Trench is propagating northward whereas the Visayan-Mindanao segment of the subduction zone is propagating southward. This is mirrored by the northward and southward propagation of the Philippine Fault Zone whose northern and southern termini are characterized by horse-tail structures,” according to the study. “A look at the Philippine Trench with respect to the Bicol Peninsula through Samar-Leyte all the way to eastern Mindanao exposes differences in the morphology and distribution of volcanic arc centers. A well-formed volcanic chain characterizes the Bicol Peninsula, whereas an alignment of geothermal fields and volcanoes can be observed along the NW-SE stretch of the Leyte island. However, eastern Mindanao is defined by an almost non-existent volcanic arc range except for Mount Paco in Surigao del Norte and Leonard Range (also known as Leonard Kniassef) in Compostela Valley.” With all these geological features and movements described from the study, here are some points to think about. “A question to ask is why would the volcanic arc range along eastern Mindanao be absent? Was it lost due to large-scale fault-related dislocation? Is the volcanic arc range simply not just exposed? Or through time, would there have been a systematic, region-wide erosion of volcanic arc centers? Or were the volcanic centers not simply formed due to stunted subducted slab or the presence of a subducted, buoyant oceanic bathymetric high?” When we take into consideration the geological evolution on this part of Mindanao, an explanation can be found compatible with what is known. “Implication in terms of arc magmatism (super-critical fluids vs mantle fluids), crustal thickness vis-a-vis barometric fugacity, tholeiitic to calc-alkaline signature of cumulate rocks and the mineralization potential of the region will also be presented.” - - -  Complete list of authors and researchers: Dr. Graciano Yumul, Jr., C.B. Dimalanta, J.A. Gabo-Ratio, B.D. Payot, V.S.V. Olfindo, G.T. Valera, C.J. Arellano, K.C. Punzalan, K.D. Jabagat, J.B. Demegillo, K.L. Queano and N.L. Caagusan You may write the team through email@example.com.
Philippine Resources - December 01, 2021
A grand slam in responsible mining
Photo credit: Hinatuan Mining A grand slam win for a mining company simply means being the best in class in its responsible conduct of business; in its forest management and environment enhancement and protection; its social responsibility programs and in providing safety in the workplace and the communities. Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) sweeps major honors this year from the country’s most prestigious award-giving body in the mining industry – the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA). “It’s our first time and it’s a grand slam! We still can’t believe it but that these awards were accorded to us during this most difficult time of the pandemic, makes this moment doubly exulting, everyone was emotional when the news first broke, this is the reason for our existence, says Engr. Francis Arañes, HMC’s Resident Mine Manager. HMC, with operations in Hinatuan Island, Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte, takes home the Presidential award for surface mining operations; the Best Mining Forest in the Metallic category; the winner of the Safest Surface Mining Operations; and the winner of the Safest Mining Operation; plus, the individual awards of Best Surface Safety Inspector and Best Surface Miner accorded to HMC’s employees, Aldrin L. Resullar and Jennifer Q. Inting, respectively. The PMIEA is the highest accolade awarded to a mining company. The evaluation and assessment for this year’s awardees encountered extra challenges with the threats of COVID-19 in the backdrop where movements were limited, the economy threatened, operations delayed, and bringing services to the communities were among the biggest challenge to the company’s community workers. HMC had set its eyes on these awards for years. The company remains steadfast, focusing on specific goals that the award giving body monitors and measures, such as the actual number of hectares to be rehabilitated as mandated by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), even going outside of their areas of responsibility in supporting the Philippine National Greening Program (NGP); building a robust forest within the mine site, highlighting eco-tourism programs; setting up its host and neighboring communities to sustainable economic development programs; among other things. And to ensure that compliance is above and beyond its mandate, HMC underscores the efficiency of reporting, of transparency, giving importance to its Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programs. “The bar in honoring mining companies has been set even higher, what with the added focus on the principles of ESG – Environment, Social and Governance – in the midst of ongoing debates about climate change,” says Engr. Aloysius C. Diaz, NAC SVP and Head of Production. Diaz says the miners, HMC in particular, are now even more cognizant of peer reviews because the world has become more critical in holding the industry accountable for a greener, healthier, and safer future. PMIEA evaluates all facets of a mining company’s responsible and sustainable business practices, keenly focusing on environmental protection and management; and ensuring the health and safety of employees and the total wellbeing of the people in the communities that they serve. The Hinatuan mine site, also known as the “Tagana-an Nickel Project”, is located in Hinatuan Island, Barangay Talavera, municipality of Tagana-an, province of Surigao del Norte. Its area of operations is within the Surigao Mineral Reservation.
Philippine Resources - December 01, 2021
Nuclear, solar eyed as alternatives to PH energy mix
Photo: Bataan nuclear power plant Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is considering nuclear and solar energy as a possible alternative or additional sources of energy in the country. Gatchalian, Senate energy committee chairman, said he favors “in principle” smaller nuclear reactors instead of the bigger ones for flexibility and safety. “Small ones are more flexible and safer. Safer in the sense that it is smaller, deployable, and has the technology that can use nuclear wastes. Of course, it is still in the development stage,” he said in a radio interview on Monday. He said small nuclear reactors can produce energy from 10 to 150 megawatts. Gatchalian, however, does not consider reviving the Bataan nuclear power plant as it will be too risky and too costly to rehabilitate the facility. He said many are also using solar energy with some big companies putting up solar power plants. “I believe it could be part of the energy transition because nuclear is emission-free but the risk is where to put the wastes and if it encounters a problem, the cost is too high. Solar deployment is still a challenge because it is still quite expensive,” he added. Gatchalian said he will file a bill on energy transition following the Department of Energy’s (DOE) move last year banning new coal power plants to accelerate the country’s shift to cleaner energy. “We cannot hasten the energy transition because we will have no source of energy… The energy transition can be 10 years or longer but the important thing is it’s a scientific process to determine how we can transition out of fossil fuel into renewable safely, reliably, and securely,” he said. He added that right now, the country’s energy needs are still good with fossil fuel but it is imperative to jumpstart the transition due to the increasing population and industries. Gatchalian was here on Sunday to turn over his donation of 5,000 sets of personal protective equipment and 50 sacks of slippers to the Region 1 Medical Center. By Hilda Austria Article courtesy of the Philippine News Agency
Philippine Resources - December 01, 2021
Gas drilling in Recto Bank should push through: Pimentel
Photo credit: Inkl The chair of the House Strategic Intelligence Committee on Tuesday said oil drilling activities in Recto Bank must proceed as scheduled amid rising tensions with China. Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the Sampaguita gas field could yield up to USD18.2 billion, or around PHP910 billion, in future royalties for the government, based on a 60 percent net share. “We have no choice but to carry on with the drilling activities because the Sampaguita gas discovery in Recto Bank has the potential to energize the entire national grid – not just Luzon – for the next 20 to 30 years,” Pimentel said. Pimentel said Sampaguita is “an untapped value-changing asset” that would be valuable to the country’s future energy security with up to 4.6 trillion cubic feet of gas, while Malampaya, which has been producing gas for the last 20 years, has only 1.6 trillion cubic feet of residual gas at best. “There is even one study suggesting that the entire Recto Bank has up to 20 trillion cubic feet of potential gas in place,” Pimentel said. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled in July 2016 that Recto Bank is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, as defined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea. By virtue of the ruling, Pimentel said the Philippines enjoys absolute rights to exploit all resources in the seamount. Article courtesy of the Philippine News Agency