Un­der­stand­ing small scale min­ing

Sun.Star Baguio - - Speakout - A. Wayan Marissa

THE ROOT cause in the pro­lif­er­a­tion of small scale min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Ito­gon and sim­i­lar mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Benguet is the lack of liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties. From these, there are sev­eral stud­ies which iden­ti­fied some of its neg­a­tive ef­fects such as health haz­ard, en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and pol­lu­tion. How­ever, there are also re­searches which gave rec­om­men­da­tions if small scale min­ing can­not be stopped. One of these is the re­search pa­per en­ti­tled “Mer­cury Pol­lu­tion Due to Small – scale Gold min­ing in the Philip­pines: An eco­nomic Anal­y­sis by Danilo C. Is­rael and Jas­menda P. Asirot (2002). The re­search was con­ducted in the small min­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Para­cale, Ca­marines and in the Com­postela Val­ley. It rec­om­mended the fol­low­ing: li­cens­ing of small scale min­ing op­er­a­tions by the re­spec­tive lo­cal gov­ern­ment Unit, creation of miner’s co­op­er­a­tive for mar­ket­ing self-su­per­vi­sion and con­trol, In­volve­ment of Non­govern­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tions, creation of min­ers own lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions, In­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of the SmallScale Min­ing Sec­tion of the MGB’s En­vi­ron­ment and Safety Divi­sion and the use of bet­ter or al­ter­na­tive tech­nol­ogy that lessens or even pre­vent pol­lu­tion. The sur­vey col­lected de­mo­graphic, eco­log­i­cal, in­sti­tu­tional and fi­nan­cial statis­tics and in­for­ma­tion that were linked to mer­cury pol­lu­tion. Per­cep­tion of min­ers as to in­ci­dence of mer­cury pol­lu­tion were used.

The re­search fur­ther has not rec­om­mended to­tal clo­sure and use of po­lice as it might be detri­men­tal to lo­cal liveli­hood. The re­search has iden­ti­fied three com­mon meth­ods of sep­a­rat­ing gold from ores. The first method in­volves crush­ing ores to dust and re­mov­ing the heavy el­e­ments us­ing wa­ter. The gold dusts are then made into nuggets us­ing heat. The sec­ond method in­volves the use of mer­cury in the gold im­pu­ri­ties to form an amal­gam or com­pound and is re­fined or cleanse us­ing bo­rax and fi­nally us­ing heat to pro­duce gold nuggets. The third method uses Cyanide. At first ores are crush man­u­ally through the use of ham­mers and the likes then fol­lowed by ball mills. Im­pu­ri­ties such as soil and other metal­lic el­e­ments lighter than Gold are wash out us­ing wa­ter. What re­mains now are the heav­ier el­e­ments of which mer­cury is added. Grind­ing will com­mence again so that the gold and mer­cury forms a com­pound. The com­bi­na­tion will be stored in a de­pos­i­tory called leach­ing tanks of which cyanide is added. Fur­ther pro­ce­dure re­quires com­pli­cated in­stru­ments to sep­a­rate gold from the cyanide. The last method is sel­dom used by small scale min­ers be­cause of the cost. With these, this writer agrees that to­tal clo­sure of small scale min­ing shall not be rec­om­mended but new tech­nolo­gies that re­sults to zero pol­lu­tion but one hun­dred per­cent safe should be fur­ther look upon.

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