International organizations Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) are now helping the Philippine government to stop the use of highly toxic mercury in mining in compliance with its commitment under the Minamata Convention.
According to a statement, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already started the implementation of a program that establishes national policies ensuring the elimination of mercury’s use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
Such a move is part of the “Global Opportunities for Long-term Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector (GOLD-ASGM)” project under the GEF and with the UNEP.
GOLD-ASGM has total funding of P585 million until 2024. The Philippine government, through DENR, has a counterpart funding of P96 million.
GEF is based in Washington DC, United States, and is a partnership of 18 agencies, including United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, national entities, and international NGOs.
It is currently working with 183 countries to address the world’s most challenging environmental issues.
GOLD-ASGM, on the other hand, targets to help small miners shift to legal mining that uses mercury-free technology.
It should 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,” said the DENR.
The project also aims to address issues of ASGM like hazardous working conditions, child labor, and gender gaps through capacity building and assistance to government agencies in developing relevant policies, DENR said.
The Philippines’s ASGM sector takes up a critical role in the economy, directly employing 500,000 small miners and indirectly providing livelihood to two million people.
According to the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, there are 38 ASGM operators in the Caraga region while 78 exist in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
While most operating illegally, the ASGM sector accounts for 70 percent of the country’s gold production.
DENR said the project sites for the gold project in the Philippines are Mountain Province and Camarines Norte. In 2013, the Philippines was one of the 128 countries that signed the Minamata Convention, which regulates the use and trade of mercury.
Minamata Convention the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to the environment and human health.