DENR out to get rid of mercury use in small-scale gold mining

Published May 24, 2021, 2:16 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has moved to establish national policies geared toward the elimination of mercury’s use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).

HAZARDOUS TRADE–In small-scale gold mining, mercury is vaporized in order to extract gold. This creates toxicity in humans when inhaled. (Photo from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization)

The DENR is implementing the “Global Opportunities for Long-term Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector (GOLD-ASGM)” project under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The project will help small miners shift to legal mining that uses mercury-free technology. It will also empower small miners and help raise their income and livelihood by producing higher value-added products such as jewelry from mere raw gold ore.

“Meaningful economic incentives as well as adequate community development strategies are needed to fully aid mining communities with their formalization efforts,” the DENR said.

More importantly, the move aims to strengthen regulations against the use of highly toxic mercury in mining. This is in compliance with the Minamata Convention, which seeks to prevent mercury emissions from reaching 1,000 tons yearly in order to protect the environment and human health.

The project also aims to address other issues linked to ASGM like hazardous working conditions, child labor, and gender gaps through capacity building and providing assistance to government agencies in developing relevant policies.

The Philippines’s ASGM sector directly employs 500,000 small miners and indirectly provides livelihood to two million people.

According to the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), there are 38 ASGM operators in the Caraga region while 78 exist in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

While mostly operating illegally, the ASGM sector accounts for 70 percent of the country’s gold production. The Philippines itself is one of world’s top 20 gold producers.