News Articles on Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining in Sierra Madre
Unregulated small-scale gold mining imperils 2 watersheds
(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 2, 2014 - 12:00am
MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – Unregulated small-scale gold mining is threatening the Angat and Marikina watersheds and is also endangering the environment and public health, according to an environmental group.
“Small-scale gold mining operations are scattered in different watersheds and river systems of the Sierra Madre” in Bulacan and Rizal, said Elizabeth Carranza, chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA).
“Since no government body has been monitoring these mining operations, miners are releasing toxic mercury into the waters. Mining also causes heavy siltation and erosion and increases hazards and disaster risk, especially to riverside and low-lying communities,” Carranza added.
In a report it released recently in collaboration with Philippine Pollution Monitor, the SSMNA said artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations are going on in major head rivers of three critical Luzon watersheds – Angat, Umiray and Marikina.
The Angat watershed is the primary source of domestic water for millions of families in Metro Manila and Central Luzon, while the Marikina watershed drains into other critical ecosystems such as the Marikina River and Laguna de Bay.
Watersheds, according to the SSMNA, fall under the “No Go Mining Zone” category under Executive Order 79 of President Aquino. These areas are also covered by ancestral domain claims of the Agta and Dumagat tribal groups.
The SSMNA particularly raised concern about the use by small-scale gold miners of mercury which, once released into the environment, can travel great distances and may cause contamination of ecosystems, wildlife and the food chain.
“More and more people are continuously flocking to these watersheds in search of livelihood. Both the national and local government units must act now to regulate these mining operations and lessen their impacts to the environment,” Carranza said.
In Sitio Angelo alone, which is part of the Angat-Umiray watershed, the SSMNA has recorded a growing community of migrants from the Cordilleras and the Bicol region that started gold mining in the area in the 1970s.
The SSMNA said the government should promote participatory and genuine watershed management in these areas and involve the affected communities, especially the indigenous groups, in decision-making.