1637e When mining surrounds the community: work, well-being, and environmental monitoring in small scale mining in the philippines


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Abstract

This research on small scale gold mining (SSGM) in Benguet, Philippines draws from three different but complementary data sources in order to analyse work, well-being and environmental pollution in SSGM. The data sources were- 1. workplace inspection to assess working conditions, hazards, and work practices of miners coupled with interviews and focus-group discussions; 2. health assessment and laboratory examinations among indigenous miners; and 3. environmental monitoring of mercury in water samples across all 13 municipalities of Benguet. The work analysis showed accident risks from use of explosives, poor visibility in tunnels, exposure to dust during tunnelling, and chemical exposures to mercury and cyanide without protective equipment and proper ventilation. The workplace inspection of the underground tunnels showed safety infarctions including unsteady trenches, insufficient slopes, possibility of collapse of trenches, and the risk of subsidence. The sub-sample population of 89 SSGM reported prevalent health problems- hypertension (62%), hypertensive cardiovascular disease (14%), and dermatitis (4%) Health injuries were secondary to blasting and stone crushing. Another data from a sub-population of 34 miners showed major causes for hospitalisation were trauma, ulcers, kidney and cardiac diseases. Low back pain was common and associated with heavy lifting (p=0.001). Reticulocyte count was associated with total lifetime mining hours (p=0.033). The mental status examination showed most deficits in repeat phrase and recent memory. For the environmental monitoring of mercury in 90 surface water and 40 drinking water samples, a considerable percentage exceeded the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of both the Philippine guideline (0.001 mg/L for drinking sources, 0.002 mg/L for surface waters), and EPA (0.002 mg/L), above which levels can cause risk to health. All the three different but complementary data sources show the need for an occupational and environmental agenda addressing the health-safety aspects and technical-social issues in mining.

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