The chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and Committee on Cultural Communities Senator Loren Legarda today warned environment officials and local government units (LGUs) to be more circumspect about permitting gold mining operations, amid reports of locals rushing to abandoned mines to pan for gold.
In a news report, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that gold mines in Compostela Valley, the Agusan provinces, Masbate, Cagayan Valley and Nueva Vizcaya currently experience a revival of interest in gold after its price hit a record high of $1,900 per ounce in August and is expected to hit $2,000 in December because many investors in the United States prefer to invest in gold following the financial crisis there.
She said LGUs should be wary because this might just lead to health and environmental problems, all the more with the fact that 70 percent of gold in the country is produced by small-scale mining industry.
“We must first determine whether the benefits that will be derived from this gold rush are worth the social and environmental costs that result from it,” Legarda said.
Legarda said small-scale mining operations could pollute tributaries and water systems which could result in fish kill aside from adversely affecting the livestock industry and agricultural production.
“The toxic effects of mercury used in gold mining poses great threat to human health even at low doses,” Legarda added.
In Tagum, Davao del Norte, for example, health findings showed exposure of schoolchildren to mercury due to gold mining operations,” said the Senator.
“If small-scale gold mining would be performed without adequate government regulation, there is no doubt that this will not be good in the end,” Legarda concluded. ***