By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
JOSE PANGANIBAN Mayor Ricarte Padilla has supported the small miners’ demand for a mercury-free mining operation.
Padilla, in a remark before the just concluded small-scale gold miners’ summit held in this town recently, said he is with the small miners who are demanding for the elimination of mercury in gold operations throughout the country.
The two-day 2nd National Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) summit was attended attended by some 120 delegates from the small-scale mining industry and government representatives from the DENR, SSS, health sectors and local officials.
Held at the Apolonia Hotel in town, the meet was sponsored by Ban Toxic!, a non-governmental organization advocating for a mercury-free small-scale gold mining in the country.
It will be recalled that Padilla pitched for the total elimination of mercury in all gold mining operations by small miners at a national summit held in Baguio City last November.
At the start of the summit, the JP mayor had posed the challenged to the delegates: Is this group convinced about removing mercury in small scale mining?
He said that with several communities dependent on the industry, coming up with responsible and mercury free methods is an urgent matter for the local government units.
“We need to reform the industry now. I therefore suggest that we begin convincing the other 300,000 miners in the country to also do the same!” Padilla said.
Last April, the mayor revealed to MWBuzz that a group of small gold operators in Jose Panganiban has phased out mercury in their gold recovery and instead, used another chemical – borax – in its place.
Introduced by Ban Toxic!, the borax scheme has been successful in gold recovery, convincing the miners to drop mercury for good from their operations.
Jose Panganiban town is a site of both big and small gold mining operations.
The summit served as a venue where miners and government agencies sit together and discussed pressing issues that affect the small-scale mining industry.
Participants said they were drafting a resolution supporting mercury elimination through import ban and serious effort by the government to stamp out illegal mercury trade.
Unofficial reports point to a large scale mercury trade that supplies the small-scale gold mining sector, they said.
Organized by Ban Toxics, an independent non-profit, environmental organization, the summit brought together the country’s small miners, who said that Executive Order 79, which seeks to ban the use of mercury in mining operations was a welcome move.
“While EO 79 supports our cause to ban mercury in gold mining, the ban should be carried out with a speed upang ibalik ang buhay sa kabuhayan,” the miners said.
The miners admitted it may take them some time to warm up to mercury-free mining methods, though it is the best method so far that is not harmful to miners’ health and the environment.
Ban Toxics said it is high time that mercury should be taken out of circulation.
It suggested a phase-out period which should involve the drafting of a national storage program and facility that will handle the surplus mercury once the ban becomes in full force.
According to Rodolfo Boyles of Mt Diwata, Randy Silva of Zamboanga, and Jose Anayo of Nabunturan in Compostela Valley, they have long recognized the possible rejection of mercury use in mining even before EO 79 was crafted.
Ban Toxics Executive Director Richard Gutierrez has cautioned the government’s slow approach in terms of chemical use, saying that, “today, mercury is the hot issue, tomorrow it could be another chemical.” – With reports from THE Bicol Mail, GMANetwork and Manila Times