Jose Panganiban eyes mercury-free mining

JOSE PANGANIBAN, Camarines Norte — The local government of this town and environmental justice group BAN Toxics (BT) joined forces to boost the municipality’s efforts in promoting mercury-free artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and sustainable community development through the establishment of a Minahang Bayan in 2017.

Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte: Mercury-free minahang bayan bg 2017
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Pursuant to Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991, a minahang bayan is intended to legalize small-scale mining operations in the Philippines, which will pave the way to regulate small-scale mining and avoid mercury use in its operations.

“The illegal use of mercury should be stopped, and an effective way of achieving this is to recognize legitimate small-scale miners and give them the appropriate space to operate and work through the establishment of a Minahang Bayan,” said BT ASGM programme manager, Eve Cubelo.

The establishment of a Minahang Bayan is a bold step for the province, taking its cue from the alarming events in recent weeks where over 78 small-scale miners from the province have been apprehended for illegal small-scale mining operations.

“The establishment of a mercury-free Minahang Bayan by 2017 is a daunting task because we have to change mindsets and habits coupled with concrete actions. We recommend that we start with the young who still know how to listen and follow,” said Jose Panganiban councilor Sarah Marie Aviado.

“Minahang Bayan is a pro-poor campaign because not all small-scale miners have the capacity to fund their own small-scale mining permits. A Minahang Bayan will be helpful as it will give the small-scale miners with the necessary assistance they need to operate legally and properly,” Aviado added.

According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of Region V, approximately 7,000 people are directly involved in small-scale mining in Bicol. Of these, 2,000 are situated in Camarines Norte’s mining towns of Paracale, Jose Panganiban, Labo, Capalonga and Basud—extracting gold, iron and copper.

 With the absence of a Minahang Bayan, the small-scale mining industry operates largely unregulated in these resource rich towns. This in turn poses serious threats to the health, security, and the environment of community directly in mining areas as well as downstream communities in the province.

“The Minahang Bayan will shepherd the people away from mercury exposure and provide them with alternative technology and healthier methods in small-scale mining.” said Dr. Antonio Fulong, municipal health officer of Jose Panganiban.

A major challenge to the ASGM sector in Camarines Norte and most of the provinces with ASGM operations in the country is the rampant use of mercury. According to a study conducted by the United
Nations Environment Program, ASGM is the single largest mercury-emitting sector in the world. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) estimates the annual mercury discharge from the sector at around 70 metric tons.

Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte: Mercury-free minahang bayan bg 2017
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Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is persistent in the environment. From a number of historical pollution disasters it has been established that psychiatric symptoms, brain damage and kidney damage are some of the serious health consequences of exposure to high levels of mercury. It is also well-documented that even tiny dosages affect the intellectual and physical performance of children when exposed in utero or while in the womb.

BT’s project in Camarines Norte is made possible in partnership with Dialogos, ICOEPH, University of Copenhagen, GEUS, the Global Environment Facility, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

BT is an independent non-government environmental organization focused on the advancement of environmental justice, children's health, and toxics elimination. Working closely with government agencies, partner communities and other NGOs in both the local and international levels, BAN Toxics endeavors to reduce and eliminate the use of harmful toxins through education campaigns, training and awareness-raising, and policy-building and advocacy programs.

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