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Philippines: Working to substitute the use of mercury with borax and soap in small-scale gold mining

12 January, 2012
Spotlight: Initial Test Results Reveal New Method of Gold Extraction – Philippines. By Erik Jors. Collaborating Centre Connection. cdc.gov/niosh. January 2012. The Denmark Clinic of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is working with partners (NGO Dialogos, Danish Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Danish Universities and local partner Ban Toxins (BANTOX)) in the Philippines to substitute the use of mercury with borax and soap in small-scale gold mining, thus avoiding mercury intoxications and pollution of the environment. The first results, run from December 2010 tests in Baggio, have shown that the mercury-free gold extraction method is less time consuming and nearly three times more effective than the traditional mercury method.
Philippines: Working to substitute the use of mercury with borax and soap in small-scale gold mining
During one of the early demonstrations of the new method, the mercury process produced 1.2 grams of gold while the borax slosh method extracted 4.3 grams using the same amount of randomly picked ore. The gold quality using borax is also higher, which translates to higher selling price for the miners.
In many of the gold rich regions of the country, a significant portion of a family’s income comes from gold mining, a reality that becomes particularly true for areas where other forms of livelihood are non-existent. In an industry where vulnerable workers, including young workers, are engaged in the hazardous work of mining, often spending hours diving into narrow holes filled with water and digging mud for gold extraction, the results open doors for a healthier and safer mining population and a cleaner environment. What was generally believed to be impossible may now become a reality, as partners embark on a project to break off small-scale miners from mercury dependence, keeping these workers safe and healthy in their work.

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