QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA–Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has often been viewed negatively by the media, with a focus on its associated challenges, such as environmental degradation and health risks, rather than its potential for positive change. The negative portrayal of ASGM in the media not only influences public perception, but also shapes how the public views the sector as a whole. As a result, the public tends to associate ASGM with only the negative aspects of the operation, creating misconceptions that the sector is inherently harmful and unsustainable and often overlooking the sector’s potential for transformative growth and the important role it can play in poverty alleviation, local economic development, and the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
In an effort to change this narrative, planetGOLD Philippines launched its media kapihan sessions last June 1 and 8, 2023 in Quezon City, Metro Manila and Daet, Camarines Norte, respectively. Entitled “Kapihan Tungo sa Responsableng Minahan” (Coffee Talks Towards Responsible Mining), these sessions aim to engage with the media in shifting perspectives towards a better understanding of ASGM. The event sought to foster a more nuanced and constructive dialogue on the sector by highlighting its positive impact on the mining communities and the strategies and initiatives of the Project.
Opening the session, planetGOLD Philippines National Communications Officer Dawn Po Quimque encouraged the media to freely express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas related to ASGM. Ms. Po Quimque shared that more efforts should be made to increase public awareness and understanding of the sector.
“By highlighting the socioeconomic benefits, environmental protection, and efforts to mitigate the challenges associated with ASGM, the public–through the media–can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the sector and recognize its potential for transformative change.”
Followed by an introduction of the planetGOLD Philippines project, National Project Manager Abigail Ocate stressed that “it is crucial to engage the media in open and constructive dialogue, providing them with accurate and balanced information about the ASGM sector by sharing success stories, disseminating information on responsible gold mining practices, and showcasing the initiatives undertaken by planetGOLD Philippines. Hopefully, through this venue, we can reach more media to better understand the sector, and reframe the current narratives we see in our social media, on the TV, newspaper, and radio about ASGM.”
The free-flowing and informative sessions centred around the challenges and the benefits of the sector. It also focused on the planetGOLD Philippines’ efforts which aim to reduce the use of mercury by promoting responsible gold mining practices and technologies, improving the lives of miners, and safeguarding the environment.
Key Insights from the Sessions
- Formalization and Access to Finance and Formal Market
The Project’s efforts to assist miners in obtaining legal rights to their mining areas and meeting the requirements for responsible gold supply chains were discussed during the kapihan. This included brief overviews of the gold trading program of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the plans of establishing more transparent supply chains.
- Better Technologies and Techniques
The media kapihan discussed health and safety hazards associated with ASGM, particularly the use of mercury in gold extraction. The planetGOLD Philippines highlighted its commitment to promoting mercury-free practices and shared insights on its installation of a Mercury-Free Processing System in Paracale, Camarines Norte. The Project also supports miners by providing them with technical assistance, access to safer, cleaner and more profitable mining methods, and training programs to minimize environmental impacts. The kapihan facilitated an in-depth conversation about the risks and challenges faced by miners, encouraging media participants to raise awareness and advocate for safer working conditions.
- Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
The media kapihan highlighted the Project's commitment to gender equality and social inclusion within the ASGM sector. The planetGOLD Philippines team emphasized its efforts to empower women miners, provide skill-building opportunities, and promote their leadership roles within the ASGM sector.
- Environmental Protection
The sessions emphasized the crucial role of environmental protection in ASGM, highlighting the efforts of planetGOLD Philippines in promoting the adoption of environment-friendly techniques and technologies that aim to reduce or eliminate the use of mercury in gold extraction. By raising awareness about the hazards of mercury and providing alternative methods, the Project intends to protect both the environment and the health of miners and nearby communities. The media participants actively engaged in the discussions, expressing their concerns, and emphasizing the need for greater awareness and action on environmental protection in ASGM.
- The Power of Media in Influencing Public Perceptions
During the sessions, a significant insight emerged on the power of positive storytelling in influencing public perception of ASGM. Both planetGOLD Philippines and media participants recognized the potential of positive narratives to challenge negative stereotypes, evoke empathy, and humanize the ASGM sector. By sharing success stories from the project sites, the media can foster a deeper understanding of the sector's challenges and the positive impacts on local communities and the environment. This approach can build trust, and credibility, and inspire collective action among stakeholders, influencing policy and decision-making toward supporting responsible mining practices and sustainable development in the ASGM sector.
As the kapihan concluded, journalists expressed their interest in supporting and promoting environmental protection and social welfare initiatives of the planetGOLD Philippines in the ASGM sector. They recognized the need for continued collaboration and knowledge sharing to achieve long-lasting positive impacts on the mining communities. They showed interest in writing stories about the sector and in visiting project sites to better understand the miners.
By bridging the gap between media representation and the realities of ASGM practices, it is possible to reshape the public perception and foster greater support for sustainable development in the sector. A more accurate and positive narrative can emerge through collaborative efforts involving media, government, communities, and other stakeholders, ultimately leading to a more balanced and constructive public discourse on ASGM.
The planetGOLD Philippines hopes the media kapihan series will serve as a stepping stone towards this transformative journey. It is through continuous dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and engagement that we can create a future where ASGM is seen as a catalyst for development. Through these interactive sessions, stakeholders can help transform perspectives, transform communities, and pave the way for a more sustainable and inclusive development pathway for the ASGM sector in the Philippines.
The two sessions lasted about two (2) hours and were attended by 23 journalists from different media networks. The last session for the 1st leg of the media kapihan session will be held in Bontoc, Mountain Province, on 12 July 2023.
The planetGOLD Philippines project is implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme, and United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council.
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