The Philippines is home to an estimated 500,000 miners operating in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector. More than providing livelihood opportunities, the ASGM sector helps the Philippine economy by producing gold which we unconsciously use in our everyday lives–whether it is in the form of jewelry, electronics, gadgets, and more. In 2011, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) reported that 80% of the annual gold reserves were produced through small-scale mining. While these numbers speak volumes, small-scale miners and the different sectors helping the industry still lack recognition for their efforts in improving the economy of the country.
To celebrate the contributions of ASGM Champions across different sectors–from the national and local government, non-government, private, academia, and the mining communities themselves–planetGOLD Philippines launched “Behind the Gold Rush: A Photo Exhibition featuring People Advocating for the Advancement of ASGM in the Philippines” at its project sites in Paracale, Camarines Norte and Sagada, Mt. Province. The exhibit recognizes the hardworking and passionate leaders advocating for a cleaner, safer and more profitable ASGM sector in the Philippines.
National Project Manager Abigail Ocate of planetGOLD Philippines emphasized the importance of highlighting the people behind the gold we use everyday. “These Champions are brave individuals inspiring change in their communities. They are the ones who are struggling through the challenging path towards formalization of small-scale mining operations in the country, and the promotion of their rights to access the services that they deserve.”
The planetGOLD Philippines celebrates Paracale’s 25th Pabirik Festival
Also known as “Town of Gold'', Paracale is one of the largest historical gold producing regions in the Philippines. Their economy is mainly driven by the gold produced in the province through small-scale gold mining. It is estimated that over half of the total population of Paracale are engaged in ASGM, either as a mine worker, financier, processor, independent gold panner, or in providing support for the operations. Many residents choose to work in different aspects of ASGM to gain financial independence and acquire new wealth.
The photo exhibition series was launched in Paracale, Camarines Norte on 25 January 2023 at their Ginintuang Bulwagan in time for the celebration of the 25th Annual Pabirik Festival–a day highlighting the importance of gold mining in the development of Paracale as a community. A ribbon cutting ceremony was led by Paracale Vice Mayor Bernadette Asutilla. Members of the project’s partner mining association, the Samahan ng mga Minero sa Barangay Casalugan (SMBC), joined the celebration.
During her speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony, SMBC Treasurer Cherry Almeda emphasized how grateful their organization is for planetGOLD Philippines and its activities, including the establishment of a Mercury-Free Processing System (MFPS) in Sitio Maning. “Nais kong pasalamatan ang Artisanal Gold Council at ang kanilang proyektong planetGOLD Philippines sa napakalaking tulong na ibinahagi ninyo sa mga minero sa bayan ng Paracale, lalo’t higit sa SMBC na kung saan binigyan ninyo ng MFPS ang aming lugar. Mapakikinabangan ito ng marami naming kababayan sa pagkuha ng ginto. Sa pamamagitan nito, magiging ligtas ang ating kalusugan at kapaligiran. [I want to thank the Artisanal Gold Council and the planetGOLD Philippines project for supporting the small-scale miners of Paracale, especially the SMBC which has received the MFPS. This will be beneficial for our miners in processing gold. Through the MFPS, our health and the environment will be protected].” Almeda is one of the ASGM Champions featured in the Paracale leg of the photo exhibit series.
The planetGOLD Philippines joins 10th Etag Festival in Sagada
The Sagada photo exhibit was launched on 2 February 2023 at the Sagada Municipal Hall Plaza, in time for the 10th Etag Festival–a day highlighting etag, a salted meat processed for preservation, often used in rituals and special occasions by the indigenous peoples of Sagada.
Formerly known as "Ganduyan", Sagada is a 5th class municipality in Mountain Province with agriculture, tourism, and even small-scale gold mining as its main source of livelihood. ASGM in Barangay Fidelisan became well-known in the 1980s. The continuous engagement of the Indigenous People of Sagada in ASGM has influenced their traditions, economic activities, and social organization in the traditional mining community. ASGM in Fidelisan is determined by customary laws passed on to generations covering equitable sharing, cooperation, and community solidarity. The community has also developed an environment-friendly and responsible method of mining--eliminating the use of mercury and other chemicals permanently.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by representatives from the Sagada local government, members of the Northern Sagada Barangay Small-Scale Mining Association, Inc. (NSBSSMAI), and visitors of the Etag Festival.
Mr. Ceasar Soliba, Executive Assistant of Sagada Mayor Felicito Dula, expressed their support for the planetGOLD Philippines project in his opening remarks. “The office of the Municipal Mayor is grateful for the planetGOLD Philippines project and its efforts on making the ASGM industry here in Sagada cleaner, safer, and more profitable. We would like to thank you for featuring our hardworking community Champions who value the protection of our environment and sustainability of resources.”
Meanwhile, Esther Camiling–miner and Treasurer of NSBSSMAI, and one of the ASGM Champions featured in the exhibit–highlighted the importance of recognizing small-scale mining as a main economic driver in Sagada. She also thanked the project for featuring the ASGM Champions from their community. “Salamat isnan photo exhibit ti planetGOLD Philippines ta infeature da nan iiba ya comunidad tako ay mangtatrabaho para isnan development iti minas ditoy Sagada. [We are thankful for this photo exhibit series by planetGOLD Philippines which gives spotlight to the people and communities who work for the development of small-scale mining communities here in Sagada.]”
Moreover, planetGOLD Philippines National Communications Officer Dawn Po Quimque emphasized what the project wants to achieve through the photo exhibition series and the reason why the contribution of ASGM Champions in the Philippines must be recognized. “As part of the knowledge management component of the project, we intend that this photo exhibit series will contribute to changing the negative perception of ASGM here in the Philippines. Currently, the public see small-scale gold mining, in general, as something that is dangerous, destructive, irrelevant, and unsustainable. We hope that by presenting the stories and experiences shared by our miners, partners, and stakeholders, people will realize how important ASGM is to these communities, even to our nation; that the project sites in Paracale and Sagada are model communities of a safer, cleaner, and more profitable ASGM community. We hope to make others see that a sustainably managed ASGM will result in the protection of the ecosystem, while at the same time providing opportunity for livelihood development. But that will only start if we help to inspire a transition toward more responsible gold mining practices that are good for people and the environment.”
To promote the exhibit during both festivals, two interactive games were developed. Game 1 encouraged visitors to take a photo at the exhibit using the advocacy props and post it on their Facebook accounts with the hashtags #BehindTheGoldRush, #MakeMercuryHistory, and #planetGOLDPhilippines. While Game 2 challenged the visitors to answer questions about the exhibit, the ASGM industry in the Philippines, and the planetGOLD Philippines project. In order to win, they must read all the posters displayed in the exhibit. Winners of both games won prizes from the planetGOLD Philippines.
Under the knowledge management component of the project, the planetGOLD Philippines hopes to highlight the narrative on the opportunities of the ASGM sector in the country through the stories and shared experiences of ASGM Champions.
Follow the Behind the Gold Rush photo exhibit series this year! Find us on the following events and join us in advocating for a cleaner, safer, and more profitable small-scale mining in the Philippines:
- April 2023: Bantayog Festival in Daet, Camarines Norte
- August 2023: 2023 planetGOLD Philippines’ ASGM Summit in Baguio, Benguet
- November 2023: School tour in Paracale, Camarines Norte
The planetGOLD Philippines project is implemented by the UN Environment Programme, UN Industrial Development Organization, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and MGB, and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC).
For more updates about the activities of planetGOLD Philippines: