BAAY-LICUAN, Abra (Apr. 23) — Mining folk in the Cordillera may get their gold and still enjoy clean surroundings, according to an Itogon small scale miner during a forum a day before the main Cordillera Day celebrations here.
Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance (IIBA) elder Vergil Aniceto provided answers on how mining communities could mine their gold and still be able to maintain the beauty and integrity of their land. Aniceto also challenged village folks in mining communities as he introduced the concept of clean gold.
Photo by Noel Godinez/NORDIS
Clean gold may ease environmental and health risks associated with chemical extraction, particularly in the artisanal and small-scale mining communities, Aniceto said.
In an interview with Nordis, Aniceto said, “Cordillera villages should support the campaign for clean gold.” He said minerals could be extracted without sacrificing the land and its resources. The campaign involves getting the gold without much chemicals in processing, at the same time taking care of the environment
According to Aniceto, modern-day gold processing involves the use of many dangerous chemicals. Cyanide would melt all metals in the ore, liquefying the minerals present in the soil. Lead will solidify these to make an amalgam. Cooking the amalgam with sulfuric acid will burn other metals, which are then released as poisonous fumes, leaving only the gold in the cooking pan.
“Even small-scale miners are now using chemicals,” he said.
Can miners get the gold without it?
The promotion of clean gold is among the recommendations of the workshop group that tackled small scale mining as an alternative.
It will take much, much longer time to extract gold without the chemicals, according to Aniceto. Without sulfuric acid what could be cooked in 30 minutes may be done in eight hours, he added.
With the little amount of ore that small scale miners get from the mines, clean gold may still be possible, as compared with large mines which cannot do away with toxic materials and processes, according to Aniceto, who along with other native miners are advancing the clean gold practice as an alternative.
Aside from frowning at the use of chemicals, the clean gold advocate warns miners not to leave a scar on the environment.
“So, we should see to it that our rivers are not getting the mine effluents by not dumping wastes on places that drain into the river system,” he said.
A ton of ore only yields one gram of gold. When a mining company sells a kilogram of gold, it might have turned a whole mountain upside down, literally, to get ten thousand tons of ore. Open pit mines in Itogon, Benguet, continue to bring tons of silt into low-lying rice-producing towns in Pangasinan through the river systems.
The Abra River carries most of the mine wastes from the mining sites in Mankayan, also in Benguet, into the rice lands in both Ilocos Sur and Abra.
Large-scale mines are definitely not environment-friendly. They also utilize large amount of toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are detrimental to humans and other life forms, according to Aniceto.
Aniceto said an alternative trading would encourage the clean gold practice when gold traders only buy and sell gold from miners who do not use excessive chemicals and whose practices are environment-friendly.
The problem by then would be the source of financial capital to buy all the gold that people would produce, according to Aniceto.
Aniceto and Mila Lingbawan of the Innabuyog-Gabriela led discussions during the Cordillera Day in Baay-Licuan.
Aside from the promotion of clean gold, mining folk in the workshop asked that similar discussions be held in other towns and provinces to reach out to other small-scale miners to broaden the clean gold campaign. They also resolved to continue building alliances for clean gold and encourage tours and exchanges among mining villages.
This year’s theme, “Resist mining plunder and state terrorism” was further discussed in other forum where delegates had a chance to air their views and questions and exchanged opinions and experiences.
Besides small-scale mining, other workshops dwelt on mining situation and updates; experiences in mining and militarization; internationalizing the people’s campaign on mining and human rights; and building solidarity for the Cordillera peoples’ struggles.
Songs, games and dances characterized the children’s cultural workshop. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS