May 23, 2021
The government is strengthening regulations against the use of highly toxic
mercury in mining in compliance with the Minamata Convention that protects the
environment and human health from mercury emissions reaching to 1,000 tons yearly.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is
implementing a program that establishes national policies ensuring elimination of
mercury’s use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
DENR said it 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 with the United Nations Environment
Grant amount for both countries totals to P585 million until 2024. The Philippine
government through DENR has a counterpart funding of P96 million.
The project will help small miners shift to legal mining that uses mercury-free
technology. It will 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 mostly operating illegally, the ASGM sector accounts for 70% of the
country’s gold production. The Philippines itself is one of world’s top 20 gold producers.
DENR said the project sites for the gold project in the Philippines are Mountain
Province and Camarines Norte. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)