Community Event / Lectures/Workshops

Big Issues in Small Mining: Mercury, Cyanide and the Technical Case for Recognition of Small Mining in the Philippines


Fieldwork report by Adrian Daniel, metallurgist, UBC Norman B. Keevil, with context on multi-sectoral support for artisanal and small-scale mining in Mindanao provided via teleconference by May Vargas, secretary general for Panalipdan Southern Mindanao (Davao). Introductions by UBC Philippine Studies Series and Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights member, Honey Mae Caffin.

How “big” is small mining in the Philippines? With estimates of up-to 500,000 people producing over 1.5 billion US dollars of direct gold sales a year, Artisanal Small Scale Mining (ASM) in the Philippines represents over 80% of the total gold produced in the country. However, these numbers are only the largest measurable estimate. Seen as illegal in almost all cases and with no perceived benefit to engage with legal and recognized way of doing things, ASM in the Philippines have gravitated towards the shadow economy to do business. In November 2012, Metallurgical consultant, Adrian Daniel, traveled to Davao City on behalf of Ateneo de Davao University and Panalipdan Southern Mindanao Region (Panalipdan SMR) to assess the current state of two major ASM mining areas.


Young small-scale miners crushing ore with hand tools in Mt. Diwalwal, Southern Mindanao, Philippines. Photo by Adrian Daniel.

This presentation will focus on showing real conditions within Filipino ASM while discussing the current technical state for the contentious mining areas of the Compostela Valley and Mt. Diwalwal regions of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. The processing methods employed there indicate that up-to 70% of the total gold is being missed and simply becomes waste. While the use of mercury and cyanide at the same time represents one of the worse combinations in gold extraction in both practical and environmental contexts. Furthermore and as a sign of the deteriorating relationship between the Government and the ASM, the Bangko Sentral (Philippines Central Bank) stated in November that official gold sales have dropped to less than 25% of normal over the course of a couple of months thus creating a major loss in direct and indirect formal tax revenue.


Miners carrying sacks of ore along the side of Mt. Diwalwal. Photo by Adrian Daniel.

By providing technical support to the ASM, there exists the real possibility for doubling ASM production if modern methods and best practises are employed. Considering the unknown technical and economic aspects that currently exist, the ASM gold mining industry in the Philippines has the potential to do 4 to 5 Billion USD per year in direct gold sales and, as such, there is a technical case for both support and recognition.

While the situation is bleak, a new initiative with Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines has been proposed to address the issues in ASM. Known as the National Center for Artisanal Mining in the Philippines (NCAMP), Ateneo de Davao hopes to provide technical, social and policy assistance to the Philippines ASM sector for a more responsible use of natural resources in the Philippines.

Along with other UBC and Filipino ASM experts, we hope you will join us at 5:30pm Thursday, Feb 28, 2013 at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, Research Unit Room, The University of British Columbia, 6476 NW Marine Drive (Map) Limited capacity. RSVP:

About the speakers:

Adrian Daniel recently toured eastern Mindanao in the Philippines as part of an technical assessment of small scale gold mining for Ateneo de Davao University. He holds a Masters in Mining engineering with a Metallurgical focus. He has been an artisanal small scale mining consultant to various development projects and developed and trained a full cyanide-gold R&D laboratory for the Guyanese Government as part of their technical efforts to responsibly remove the use of mercury in the country’s gold sector. / @goldemeansAu

May Vargas is the Secretary General for Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, a development non-governmental alliance comprised of organizations and individuals united in the defense of the environment, food security, land rights, and national patrimony against the plunder and destruction of the Philippines’ natural and mineral resources. Its membership is composed of environmental advocates and activists, church people, academe, small-scale miners, youth, Lumad and Moro organizations.

For more information, contact: Honey Mae Caffin – Member, UBC Philippine Studies Series / Email: / Web: / /

One thought on “Big Issues in Small Mining: Mercury, Cyanide and the Technical Case for Recognition of Small Mining in the Philippines

  1. Pingback: Big Issues in Small Mining: Assessing the Mt. Diwalwal Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Communities | Golden Means

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