Supporting the empowerment of the poorest and most marginalized sectors through effective capacity development at the individual, organizational, and institutional levels is vital in advancing a more transformative and sustainable society.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is a multifaceted and complex sector; ranging from informal individual miners seeking a subsistence livelihood to organized small-scale mining groups, both with technological and financial difficulties and faced with varying degree of challenges. Work in this sector tends to be low-paid, high-risk, and is often associated with high rates of informality and irregularities. Despite these, the sector continues to be known as an employment-creation avenue particularly for communities with limited alternative economic prospects.
Sagada gold miners use hammers and shovels to collect raw ore from the tunnel walls before carrying it to a processing station on the surface.
Working in small-scale mines often has serious health and safety consequences not just for the miners but also to their families and their communities due to poor practices in mining and gold processing. One of the biggest public health and environmental concerns associated with ASGM is the significant amount of mercury emission it generates. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ASGM is the largest source of anthropogenic mercury pollution–contributing almost 40 percent of all mercury that enters the atmosphere.
Government support is essential in addressing the challenges that the ASGM sector faces, especially the issue of informality. They have the authority to amend or enact appropriate laws or regulations to implement and enforce to bring about certain behaviors and assure compliance.
A woman miner holds a weighing scale and small pieces of gold collected at a small-scale gold mine Sagada, Mt. Province
In the Philippines, there are two major laws that govern ASGM; 1) Presidential Decree No. 1899, entitled “An Act Establishing Small-Scale Mining as a New Dimension in Mineral Development” (PD 1899); and 2) Republic Act 7076, entitled “People’s Scale Mining Act of 1991” (RA 7076). However, only the latter was being fully implemented by the government after the issuance of Executive Order 79 in 2012. Aside from the said national laws, there are numerous local ordinances from different municipalities that are also created to promote good governance and integrity in the industry.
But the main challenge of ASGM communities boils down to the disconnect between these laws and regulations and the realities of ASGM operations on the ground. Small-scale miners face a number of challenges relating to: lack of institutional support; coherent regulatory and policy framework; access to capital, formal markets, and affordable and clean technology; insufficient information and inconsistent data; and inadequate skills training opportunities. Formalization issues also make health and environment protection difficult to address.
Furthermore, most of the workforce in small-scale mines are unlikely to have any formal training skills, they lack basic knowledge of the industry because they begin mining operations as an alternative means of living without being trained. This immensely contributes to the non-compliance of the miners to health, safety and environment regulations.
To provide support in addressing these challenges, the planetGOLD Philippines project developed a capacity development (CapDev) series for its stakeholders in the two project sites–Paracale, Camarines Norte, and Sagada, Mountain Province. The CapDev series was designed based on the results of the Training Needs Assessment (TNA) conducted in 2021, which provided baseline data on the gaps on capacities and priority training needs of men and women miners as well as government partners actively engaged in the two ASGM sites.
The planetGOLD Philippines together with the survey respondents in Sagada, Mt. Province (top) and Paracale Camarines Norte (bottom) during the Training Needs Assessment
Several consultations with relevant national government agencies and civil society groups were conducted for the implementation and facilitation of the series of capacity development for ASGM communities, including:
- Mines and Geosciences Bureau;
- Environmental Management Bureau;
- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines);
- Department of Health;
- Department of Labor and Employment;
- Philippine Commission on Women;
- Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office;
- Philippine Red Cross; and,
- BAN Toxics
To formalize the partnership, the project inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Camarines Norte State College (CNSC) to provide technical assistance to the projects’ stakeholders in Paracale, Camarines Norte including ASGM communities, government partners, civil society organizations, the private sector, and other partners.
(From left to right) CNSC Director for Research Services Eduardo Abad, CNSC Director for Extension Services Division Girly Naval, Camarines Norte PIO Sarah Aviado, CNSC Vice President for Research and Extension Dr. Rosali Almadrones, CNSC President Dr. Marlo De La Cruz, Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) and planetGOLD Philippines Project Manager Engr. Douglas Kao, AGC National Gender Specialist Jacklyn Belo-Enricoso during the MOU signing event between the planetGOLD Philippines and Camarines Norte State College in Camarines Norte.
Capacity Development in Pursuit of Social Change
Capacity enhancement is instrumental for social and economic development of the ASGM sector. Though the challenges faced by these communities might look the same, there is no universal formula for capacity development that will determinedly work as this remains context-specific. It is critical to develop the interventions that would “best fit” the social, economic, and cultural situations of the communities. These interventions should likewise be based on different factors to ensure the sustainability of the capacity development activities.
The planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate presents the planetGOLD Philippines Project Overview during the Convergence for ASGM Policy and Regulations Workshop
“In developing the capacity of ASGM communities and institutions, the strategies aimed at improving the living conditions and accelerate human development of this sector should be sustainable and should last beyond the project life. For that reason, it is crucial that we fully understand the dynamics, contexts, and nuances of each community before implementing any intervention. With the integration of CapDev activities and provision of appropriate technologies to improve productivity while eliminating the use of mercury, the project intends to spur socio-economic changes within the sector,” -- planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate
The CapDev series aims to directly address the identified gaps on social, economic, and cultural issues of the two project mining communities. It also aims to strengthen the capacity of the national and local government to manage the needs of the sector by providing recommendations for policy improvements that allow small-scale miners to achieve sustainable livelihoods. While most of the training are ASGM-related topics, the CapDev activities expand to include other interrelated issues in order to holistically address the specific needs of the sector.
(Top to bottom) Health practitioners participate in the Health Effects of Mercury workshop; Miners during the breakout session of Basic Advocacy Skills for Women Training; Miners attend the Gender Sensitivity training; and Paracale miners join the Basic Life Support training.
The series of activities are categorized into four (4) thematic areas; Policy and Regulatory; Financing and Supply Chain; Technological and Mining Practices; and, Leadership and Organizational Development. At the national and local levels, the project has implemented workshops, write shops, and trainings on the following topics:
- Minamata Convention on Mercury
- Due Diligence and the Code of Risk-mitigation for Artisanal and small-scale mining engaging in Formal Trade (CRAFT Code)
- Gender Mainstreaming
- Gender Sensitivity
- Basic Advocacy Skills for Women
- Basic Life Support
- Basic Orientation on Safety and Health
- Occupational First Aid and Emergency Management
- Health Effects of Mercury and other Chemicals
- Orientation on the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991”
- Creation of Core Group of Trainers for the Small-Scale Mining Sector
- Convergence for ASGM Policy and Regulations
- Permitting Requirements for the Establishment of a Mercury-Free Processing System
- Operations and Management of the Mercury-Free Processing System
Miners and community members attend the CapDev training on Health effects of Mercury and other Chemicals Used in ASGM in Sagada, Mt. Province.
Representatives from the Mines and Geosciences (MGB) Central and Regional Offices participate in a seminar and writeshop for MGB Core Group of Trainers for small-scale mining
As of December 2022, around 1000 participants from mining communities and governments have participated in the CapDev activities conducted by the project and its partners.
Towards Transformative and Sustainable ASGM sector
Empowerment is a right in itself. With a community equipped with the right knowledge, attitude, and skills, the sector has a greater chance to take full ownership of their lives and livelihood which will greatly contribute to inclusive local development – making the power become more embedded within them.
But there is still a wide range of actions that should be taken in order to change the current system and further empower the mining communities. Capacity development is just one of them, but this should be treated as a long-term process entailing much more than the transfer of technical skills and knowledge. The target outcomes of these CapDev activities must be relevant to the needs and goals of the sector, and miners must have both resources and incentives to apply what they have learned from these training sessions. Not only can the sector be more harmonized but can also be more resilient and adaptable to confront social and economic challenges.
The planetGOLD Philippines’ CapDev series hopes to create a transformation that leads to sustainable development in two mining communities in the Philippines. The government and the academe are critical partners in this transformation. The planetGOLD Philippines believes that in order for a community to be sustainably empowered it should be rooted through and within institutional structures. Community empowerment needs to be accompanied by institutional empowerment. The project recognizes the significance of creating links between the community and other stakeholders, especially the government who has the authority, mandate, and resources to plan, coordinate, and provide services to the ASGM sector.