Opening address at the Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) National Summit

By Mr Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) National Summit, Manila, Philippines, 28 September 2018

Statement | Manila, Philippines | 28 September 2018
  • Secretary Cimatu, Undersecretary Rebuelta, Director Moncano and officials of the DENR;
  • Undersecretary Maglunsod, Director Trayvilla and officials of DOLE;
  • Atty Gutierrez and officials of BAN Toxics,
  • Officials, representatives and workers from the mining sector in the Philippines;
  • Distinguished partners and guests,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
Welcome and thank you for joining this National Summit on Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining. This year’s summit highlights the importance of occupational safety and health in small-scale mining sector and ending child labour, including the use of mercury and harmful chemicals.

The International Labour Organization is deeply saddened by the recent death of miners due to landslide. Let us take a moment of silence to remember and to pray for them (a few seconds of silence).

Each of us in this room play a significant role in addressing challenges in the mining sector, especially in small-scale gold mines.

The ILO has been taking action on labour and social challenges in the mining sector since its early days. By the way, next year the ILO will mark its Centenary or 100 years since it was founded in 1919.

Globally, the small scale gold mining industry provides employment and income to around 10 to 15 million miners. In the Philippines, the sector employs 500,000 workers in 40 provinces.

These numbers suggests that the industry indeed can be seen as an employment generator. However, in most countries including the Philippines, 80 per cent of the small scale miners belongs to the informal economy.

The denial of rights at work, the lack of decent working conditions, inadequate social protection and the absence of social dialogue are most pronounced in the informal economy.

A study commissioned by the ILO in 2000 estimated that 19,000 children work in 45 ASGM sites across the country. Children are reported to be involved in shaft sinking work, tunnelling, floating and panning, hauling, compressor mining, operating ball mills, and processing with mercury. Mining is by far considered as the most hazardous for children in terms of fatal injuries

In the Philippines, the ILO implements the CARING Gold Mining Project funded by the United States Department of Labor.

It is a capacity building project that aims to establish a convergence platform where different government agencies led by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Local Government Units in Camarines Norte and South Cotabato, as pilot provinces come together to address issues of child labour and poor working conditions in small scale gold mines.

The ILO works directly with these agencies on the amendment of small scale mining laws and policies and on setting-up and implementation of the child labour case management system which can detect cases of child labour in informal work settings.

ILO also works with BAN Toxics to reach out to mining communities in Camarines Norte and South Cotabato, and to help them transition from the informal to formal economy. We believe that this is a key to achieving decent work for all.

In Camarines Norte, through the support of the CARING Gold Mining project, Barangay Malaya is slowly transitioning itself into the formal economy.

Barangay Malaya was previously featured in several international reports as a typical unregulated small scale mining site, with huge decent work deficits and destruction in the environment caused by unethical mining practices.

Now, Barangay Malaya is being considered as a model implementing ‘responsible mining practices’, while looking at improving working conditions and promoting safety and health of miners through the use of personal protective equipment. Barangay Malaya also ensures equitable distribution of resources and addresses the issue of child labour in small-scale gold mines.

The Philippines has ratified ILO Convention 176 concerning safety and health in mines in 1998. This signifies the commitment of the Philippines to improve working conditions of miners and to ensure that decent work standards are met.

Consistent with the theme of this year’s ASGM Summit, the ILO puts great emphasis on decent work. Decent work means dignity, equality, fair income and safe working conditions. This is our hope and dream for the small scale mining sector - a community without child labour, a sector with safe working conditions, which is at the heart of the CARING Gold Mining project.

Your voices and actions are crucial to promote a safety and health culture as key to achieving decent work in small-scale gold mines, at the same time in setting-up legal and regulated Peoples’ Small Scale Mines (Minahang Bayan) that are compliant with environmental, health, and labour standards.

Thank you.