Sunday, September 19, 2010

RP warned of disaster from mercury use

Unless the government finds the resolve to stop the use
of mercury in small-scale mining, the country might find itself facing
a major health disaster in the future, a Danish environmentalist

Dr. Peter Appel, a geologist of the Geological Survey of Denmark and
Greenland based in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the use of mercury to
extract gold in the country’s small-scale mining communities has
reached alarming levels.

“Like Indonesia, the Philippines has a record of extremely high use of
mercury that is threatening to destroy human life and the
environment,” he said.

Appel bared the findings of his visits to the country’s small-scale
mining communities since 2007 before officials of the Mines and
Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Benguet Federation of Small-Scale
Miners Inc. (BFSSMI) here Monday night.

His call for the stop of mercury use immediately drew support from the
MGB and small-scale mining industry leaders in Benguet.

George Baywong, small-scale mining section chief of MGB Cordillera,
said a law must be passed to ban the use of mercury and penalize
people who conceal and use them.

BFSSMI officials said the federation has always advised its members
against mercury use since the group was formed five years ago.

“But today, there are still those who are using mercury and we hope
that we could encourage them to stop soon,” said Lomino Kaniteng,
BFSSMI president.

The group said it was promoting the use of borax, a cleansing agent,
to replace mercury, a move that Appel commended.

The province has more than 25,000 small-scale miners extracting gold
that costs P1,780 a gram in the black market.

Appel, whose advocacy for clean mining has brought him to the mining
tunnels of Tanzania and Mongolia, said the Philippine economy has
benefited much from small-scale mining.

He said the country’s more than 300,000 small-scale miners produced an
average of 30 tons of gold a year. “The production comprised 80
percent of the country’s total annual gold production,” he said


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