Understanding small scale mining
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.