Contamination Pathway and Pollution Management of Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining

Jeorgia G. Labador's picture
Submitted by Jeorgia G. Labador on February 16, 2015 - 2:58pm

Chemicals like mercury, cyanide, sulfuric acid, and arsenic among others are used in the various stages of mining.  Most of these are released in nearby water bodies which cause water pollution.  The disposal of mine tailings though done through the pipes has a possibility of leakage.  The leakage of these chemicals can slowly percolate through the layers of the soil polluting the ground water.  The surface runoffs can also be toxic to the vegetation. Generally, there is a need to look into the operational practices of mining and its waste disposal management.                                        

Information on the impact of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) on the quality of water and soil in the community are good bases for policy making as well as in controlling and monitoring its activities.  The economic benefits derived from the activities can not outweigh the disastrous effects these could bring to the environment and to the people. Through this project, mining policies and appropriate intervention by the government could be developed towards responsible mining.  Current practices has economic advantages, yet these practices pose potential hazards that may contaminate the surface and ground water and soil that will eventually result to the loss of biodiversity and aquatic life. From the beginning of the project to date (September 2012- September 2014), the CSU and USM teams identified ASGM activities on the proposed environmental hotspots / study sites in  Caraga Region-13 and Region 12, respectively. 

General Objective

The general objective of this project is to monitor and assess environmental impact attributed by the gold mining activities in Mindanao with a view to elucidate the contamination pathways for recommendation of appropriate pollution mitigation measures. Specifically, this study aims to:

  1. Identify environmental hotspots caused by gold mining,
  2. Provide comprehensive baseline data on the environmental conditions of the key gold mining areas in Mindanao,
  3. Assess the impact of gold mining to the environment;
  4. Characterize the nature and extent of gold mining activities in terms of environmental impact;
  5. Characterize the short-and long-term environmental impact of artisanal mining on the study area;
  6. Determine the physicochemical parameters of the surface water in and around the mining area;
  7. Determine the presence and  the level  of heavy metals  on the ground and the soil near the mining areas;
  8. Determine the leachability of heavy metal in soil;
  9. Analysis of crop tissue samples and blood samples of livestock, and
  10. Introduce environmental monitoring programs and intervention measures. 

Highlights of Accomplishments

  • Refined methodological tools.
  • Successfully installed SMS100 Mercury Analyzer and started mercury analysis of water and soil samples.
  • Conducted heavy metal analysis of water, soil, sediments, mine tails and plants.  
  • Conducted Physico-Chemical analysis of soil, mine tails and sediments.
  • Generated GIS-based maps and graphical representation of the sampling stations with the additional sampling sites
  • Identified agri-fishery system adjacent to mining areas that are possibly impacted by mining activities.
  •  Collected soil and vulnerable agricultural crops samples in areas adjacent to mining areas for heavy metal analysis.
  • Data on soil properties for samples collected in and around the mining sites that are essential for the temporal and spatial variation.
  • Successfully trained research assistants on air volume sampler operation and handling and conducted collection of dust samples.
  •  Partial data on contamination of surface and ground water for the analysis of temporal and spatial variation.
  •  Partial data on chemical pollutants in the mine tailings for the analysis of temporal and spatial variation.
  •  Partial statistical treatment of data and results for heavy metal contamination in water and soil.
  •  Conducted coordination meeting with key stake holders in each study area for the IEC of partial results of analysis.
  •  Development of informative brochures as an IEC material.

Researchers

Dr. Teresita A. Atega

Dr. Teresita A. Atega

Project Leader

Ph.D. in Animal Science, UP Los Baños

Dr. Levitah Mapatac

Dr. Levitah Mapatac

Project Staff

Brigette Yongco-Orog

Brigette Yongco-Orog

Research Assistant

BS in Chemistry, MSU-IIT

Arianne Chrytal Tibe

Research Assistant

BS in Chemistry

Jereme M. Cirera

Research Assistant

BS in Environmental Science