Around 100 residents of Barangay Pulabato in Tampakan, South Cotabato, attended a town hall forum on the prohibition and ill effects of mercury in illegal small-scale mining.
Mr. Elias Salazar, project manager of non-government organization Ban Toxics and main speaker at the forum, warned that due to illegal small-scale mining practices, the majority of creeks and river systems in the country are already contaminated with mercury while people that were examined, mostly children, miners and their families exhibited symptoms of mercury intoxication. He emphasized that mercury is a toxic substance that remains in the environment for a long time and increases in the level of accumulation as it moves up the food chain. Based on several studies conducted in the Philippines, artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the largest contributor of mercury emissions in the country.
The town hall forum was held on September 21, 2018 and is part of the unified Information, Education and Communications campaign of the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office XII, SOCCSKSARGEN Responsible Miners Association (SRMA) and Sagittarius Mines, Inc., the Provincial Government of South Cotabato, Municipal Government of Tampakan, and Barangay Council of Pulabato, to educate the public on responsible mining practices.
In line with this current IEC campaign, Barangay Pulabato was selected as the venue for the forum on mercury poisoning as it has reportedly been the site of illegal small-scale hydraulic mining, which uses high-pressure water hoses to sluice sediments from the hillside and collect particulate gold through a combination of gravity and mercury-amalgam separation. Mercury has been detected in the Pulabato River since regular water monitoring began in 2007, with concentration levels varying over the years depending on the extent of illegal small-scale mining operations and the intervention of national and local authorities.
Two permanent information boards on the ill effects of mercury were also installed in conspicuous areas in the said barangay.