What Lies Beneath
The Philippine deposits of gold, copper, chromium and nickel are considered as the 5th largest in the world. In 2009, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimated the country’s gold reserves at 5,080,785,289 tons, based accordingly on the bureau’s consolidation of resource inventory data supplied by mining companies. Forty provinces that have gold deposits practice different ways of mining gold that has been hand down from their ancestors since 3rd century.
The Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is very common to the rural areas of the Philippines because of the constant surge in the price of gold and easy way out of poverty. ASGM, which occurs in more than 70 countries, provides income to an estimated 10 - 15 million miners including 4.5 million women and 1 million children. The sector produces about 500 to 800 tonnes of gold per annum, which accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of the world’s gold supply. Despite of this, destruction of environment and human health is at stake.
The use of mercury (Hg) in ASGM posed a very dangerous threat to the health of the miners. It contains potent neurotoxin that impairs brain function, lowers intelligence and causes hearing loss. It also affects women in terms of miscarriages and birth defects. This element also destroys the environment by polluting freshwater bodies. Moreover, small scale mining practices such as the use of dynamite in making tunnels is one of the cause of landslides and degradation of the mountain.
This on-going photo story will focus on the environment and health issues pose by the artisanal and small-scale gold mining practices in the Philippines and it will also showcase how the different players such as the miners, townspeople and the government are dealing with it. The areas covered from Luzon and Mindanao are: Camarines Norte, Kalinga Apayao, Mt. Diwalwal Compostela Valley and T'Boli South Cotabato.
The objective of this story is to educate the people about the reality that small scale mining is dangerous but a kind of livelihood that is essential in the national development of the country. It aims to call on the attention of the government to regulate and supervise this kind of livelihood for the benefit of the miners and the companies.
Ban Toxics report: The price of gold, 2010
Module 3, Mercury Training Module, United Nations Environment Programme, 2008
Export Bans and Reducing Mercury Consumption in Artisana land Small Scale Gold Mining, Kevin Telmer, University of Victoria
Story & images by Aileen Dimatatac