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South Cotabato for toxic-free mining

Local News • 19:09 PM Thu Sep 11, 2014
Angelica Carballo-Pago,Media Officer BAN Toxics!

KORONADAL CITY (Sept. 11/NDBC) -- The South Cotabato provincial government, led by Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes, formally established a partnership with leading environmental justice group, BAN Toxics (BT) to eliminate the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM) operations in the province. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between BT and the provincial government of South Cotabato to mark the beginning of activities that will help transition small-scale miners away from mercury to safer and toxic-free mining techniques.The partnership aims toprevent mercury pollution through technical and health training and intensive public information campaigns. The provincial government is proactive in addressing issues affecting health and ecology. As small-scale mining affects many of us in the province, it was only a matter of choosing the right partner to help us,” explained Fuentes. We are happy that we found that partners in BAN Toxics.” Fuentes added.South Cotabato is a leading province in managing small-scale mining activities in the country. It embarked on a pioneering program called ‘Minahang Bayanihan’ that started in 2012, whose aim is to integrate the small-scale mining industry into the local economy and help sustain its viability. With the implementation of the mercury-free small-scale mining, South Cotabato is well positioned to be a leader in small-scale mining management, not just in the Phlippines but in the world,” said Evelyn Cubelo, BT ASGM Programme manager. We are very happy to be working with Gov. Fuentes and South Cotabato.” Cubelo added.In 2013, South Cotabato topped Region XII’s revenue collection after it generated P11.5 million from small-scale mining fees, according to a 2014 report from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. It lauded the province for its effective monitoring and its contribution to the regional economy. We recognize the contributions of small-scale mining industry to South Cotabato’s development. We are quite surprised that not many local governments are doing the same thing.” said Sigfried Flaviano, chief of South Cotabato Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO).A major challenge to the ASGM sector in South Cotabato is the rampant use of mercury in ASGM operations. In 2011, a study conducted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) revealed rising mercury levels in Pulabato River from the contaminated mine tailings in Danlag, Pulabato, Tablu, and Palo 19.However, the problem of mercury pollution is not just in South Cotabato. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Program, ASGM is the single largest mercury-emitting sector in the world. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) estimates the annual mercury discharge from the sector at around 70 metric tons. There is a global consensus to help developing counties, like the Philippines, manage and eliminate mercury use,” said Dr. Rasmus Rasmussen of the University of Copenhagen, one of the partners of BT in its project in South Cotabato. We are here not just to witness change, but to also take part in it,” he added.BT is an independent non-government environmental organization focused on the advancement of environmental justice, children's health, and toxics elimination. Working closely with government agencies, partner communities and other NGOs in both the local and international levels, BAN Toxics endeavors to reduce and eliminate the use of harmful toxins through education campaigns, training and awareness-raising, and policy-building and advocacy programs.The South Cotabato mercury elimination project was made possible through the support of and in partnership with the Danish NGO, Dialogos, University of Copenhagen, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, andInternational Center for Occupational, Environmental and Public Health (Denmark).

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