DAVAO CITY: For years, small-scale miners in the gold-rich village of Mt. Diwata, popularly known as Diwalwal, in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley relied on mercury in gold processing—a dangerous practice that could affect a person’s health and the destroy the environment.
Fortunately, all that will change after the village council and 200 miners recently signed an agreement with the non-profit environmental group Ban Toxics! to lessen and eventually eliminate the use of mercury in their mining practice.
The event coincided with the opening of a mercury-free gold processing facility—the first and only one in Diwalwal—by Ban Toxics! together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Eve Cubelo, artisanal and small-scale gold mining program manager of Ban Toxics!, said miners will be introduced to the Benguet method of gold mining of Benguet natives that uses borax instead of the deadly mercury.
This enhanced traditional technique has been popularized by Ban Toxics! in the Philippines and in other parts of the world.
Although it more laborious, the Benguet method ensures that miners get the best quality of gold and are spared from the toxic effects of mercury. Using this method, miners can extract 70 percent of the gold from ore compared to 50 percent with the use of mercury.
“So far, the Benguet method is the best alternative to the mining practice that involves mercury and we would like to introduce this practice to the small-scale miners of Diwalwal,” said Cubelo.
“We also plan to introduce other effective technologies to miners. Ultimately, we hope to totally eliminate the use of mercury in the small-scale mining industry,” he added.
Diwalwal village chief Pedro Samillano said the new facility would change their gold-mining practice to something better and safer.
“We have witnessed many stories of the transformation of miners who stopped using mercury in gold mining with the help of Ban Toxics! We don’t want to be witnesses anymore. We want to take part in this change and make a positive contribution to our community,” he said.