The gravitational gold concentrator
By LEONARD CABLOY/CDPC
The gravitational gold concentrator is the Cordillera Non-Government Organizations’ and Peoples’ Organizations’ alternative to cyanide and mercury gold processing for small-scale mining.The Cordillera region of the Philippines is endowed with rich natural resources and one of which is gold.
Prior to the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, indigenous peoples were already engaged in extracting and processing of the gold deposits in their communities to barter for goods with other communities. In the Cordillera in particular, especially those from the province of Benguet, small-scale mining has been a long time source of livelihood aside from agriculture. They barter gold for other goods they need with people from the lowlands like salt, tobacco, etc. They extract and process the gold ore in a very sustainable way through their indigenous knowledge and cultural practices.
Although Spanish colonizers were able to take control of the mining areas in Mankayan, Benguet by expropriating mining lands in 1856 to Spanish corporations that started a copper mining operations, it was only during the American colonial period when large-scale extraction of gold and copper with the use of heavy equipments and hi-technology machines and hazardous chemicals started in the Cordillera, especially in the province of Benguet. The Americans were able to operate freely by enacting several lands and mining laws to dispossessed the Indigenous peoples and deprived them of their ancestral lands.
Since then, despite aggressive operations of large-scale mining companies in the region, indigenous peoples still persist to engage in small-scale mining activities through sustainable and indigenous method at least up to the early 1980s.
However, starting early 1980s to the present, small-scale mining activities in the Cordillera is now a full blown occupation by most indigenous peoples in most part of the Cordillera for both livelihood and profit, and it has gone beyond subsistence and sustainable approach of extraction and processing gold.
Initially, the push for a shift from sustainable to irresponsible extraction and use of chemicals in the processing of gold was attributed to the loss of farmlands due to the operations of large-scale mining and logging especially in the province of Benguet.
Recent developments however show that lack of socio-economic services from the government, pushed the entry of middle men, the control of some government officials over small-scale mining areas for their personal gain.
The lack of information and knowledge among most small-scale miners on the effect of their activities upon the environment, poor implementation of government programs for environment protection and management, and the increasing impact of climate change to agriculture are the reasons for the increasingly wide-scale unregulated small-scale mining activities in all parts of the Cordillera region.
In view of the negative developments in small-scale mining areas in most parts of the Cordillera, and because there are still few small-scale mining areas that still practice sustainable method, the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera network in cooperation with various peoples’ organization under the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance has started in the early 1990s to conceptualize an environmental friendly and chemical-free extraction and processing of gold.
This technology search goes along with the push for small-scale mining controlled by the communities as an alternative to large-scale mining that is controlled by a few elite in the government and by foreign corporations.
Various researches for appropriate technologies; participation to national and international conferences on large-scale and small-scale mining, environmental issues and solutions; a series of consultations among NGOs, POs, Church, academe has been done to finally came up with a concrete program to respond to the environmental issues specific to small-scale mining activities.
The program was called “Clean Gold” because it will not use chemicals to process gold, as well as promote and campaign for responsible extraction of gold in small-scale mining areas.
Part of this program is the development and fabrication of the chemical-free appropriate technology “Gravitational Concentrator”. This will be tried and tested in small-scale areas in the the Cordillera. Naturally if it is successful it will be promoted for use.
After 9 months of testing and development according to the standard set, the gravitational concentrator is now in use at the small-scale community of Ucab, Itogon in the province of Benguet. The plan of replicating the same technology in other SSM areas in the Cordillera has started as well. # nordis.net