Opening address at the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Technical Working Group Consultation and Planning Workshop

By Mr Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Technical Working Group Consultation and Planning Workshop, Quezon, Philippines, 12 February 2019

Statement | Quezon City, Philippines | 12 February 2019
  • Undersecretary Teh, and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources;
  • OIC Assistant Secretary Trayvilla, Director Cucueco, and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment;
  • Assistant Secretary Daytoc-Yangot of the Department of Justice;
  • Director Suzara and officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
  • Esteemed officials, representatives and workers from the country’s mining sector;
  • Distinguished partners and guests;
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
Welcome to this Consultation and Planning Workshop of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) Technical Working Group (TWG).

We are gathered here today to look at various strategies that will help us collectively address challenges and concerns on the ASGM.

Why is artisanal and small-scale gold mining important?

Based on studies, there are gold deposits in about 40 provinces in the country1, and ASGM occurs in all these areas, with varying intensity and scale of operation. ASGM plays a significant economic role in the country. It provides employment and is a significant source of livelihood to about 500,000 miners and their families, including women and children2.

ASGM directly and indirectly supports the livelihood of over two million Filipinos3. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, small-scale gold mining contributed P300 million in gross production value in mining in 2013.

While the sector has been producing an average of about 80 per cent of the country's annual gold supply, which placed the Philippines in the list of top twenty gold producing countries in the world, ASGM is largely informal4.

Sadly, the small-scale gold miners’ rights at work are denied; their working conditions are unsafe; and they do not enjoy social protection, as well as social dialogue.

It is important to note that Republic Act No. 7076, or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, was enacted into law to strengthen environmental protection measures for small-scale mining operations in the country. However, much remains to be done to meaningfully meet the needs of the largely informal workers in this sector.

Today’s activity marks a significant milestone in the history of small-scale mining in the country. Amendments to R.A. No. 7076, as well as a draft National Action Plan seek to guide and support the ASGM sector in the years to come. These proposed policy changes will be developed through a consultative process, providing a platform wherein the voices and relevant concerns of civil society organizations, the private sector, and key Government agencies will be raised and equitably addressed.

This is an opportune time for us to continue and to strengthen our work together—not just for the pilot sites of the CARING Gold Mining Project in Camarines Norte and South Cotabato, but for all the identified provinces in the country with ASGM operations. Our actions should be geared towards ending child labour in these mining communities.

Mining is by far considered as most hazardous for children, which even results in fatal injuries. A study commissioned in (year) by the ILO reports that children are involved in mining activities - doing shaft sinking work, tunnelling, floating and panning, hauling, compressor mining, operating ball mills, and in gold processing with mercury.

Since its founding 100 years ago, the ILO has consistently worked to improve labour and social issues in the mining sector. Ending child labour has always been central to the goals of the ILO. In fact, the first international standard to regulate minimum age was adopted in 1919. As we mark our centenary this year, we remain steadfast in our commitment to help end child labour and to safeguard the rights and welfare of workers, hand in hand with our tripartite partners – government, workers and employers.

Currently, ILO is implementing the CARING Gold Mining Project, funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and implemented with BAN Toxics. It is a capacity-building project that aims to establish a convergence of different government agencies, local government units, mining communities, and other stakeholders to address issues and concerns of child labour and working conditions in ASGM.

At this point, it is worthy to highlight some recent significant developments in this sector. ILO is working with the DSWD and the local Government of Camarines Norte in implementing a child labour case management system, which seeks to detect and address the incidence or engagement of children in informal work settings.

ILO, in partnership with BAN Toxics, is helping mining communities in Camarines Norte and South Cotabato transition from the informal to formal economy. In September last year, Barangay Malaya in Labo, Camarines Norte was recommended to be declared as a “Minahang Bayan” for small-scale gold mining.

At the same time, ILO supports the full operationalization of the Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Developmental Interventions, or the SHIELD Programme with the DSWD, in the CARING Gold Project’s pilot areas. We also seek to further strengthen the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) in South Cotabato, and assist target mining communities realize their goal of formalization.

Finally, ILO endeavours to implement more activities to contribute toward the crafting of laws, policies and programs for ASGM.

ILO puts great emphasis on decent work in this sector - safety and security in the workplace, social protection for families, providing alternative opportunities for productive employment that delivers a fair income, recognition of rights at work and social dialogue, and social integration, among other aspirations.

This is our hope for the small-scale mining sector—a community without child labour, a sector with safe working conditions—which is very much at the heart of the CARING Gold Mining Project.

I thank you for your continued support, partnership and commitment to achieve our common goals and objectives. Let me, therefore, wish you all a successful and productive workshop.

Thank you and have a good day!

1 BAN Toxics, The Price of Gold: Mercury Use and Current Issues Surrounding Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in the Philippines

2 A Rapid Assessment of Gold and Financial Flows linked to Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in the Philippines FOLLOW THE MONEY: THE PHILIPPINES

3 National Strategic Plan for the Phaseout of Mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in the Philippines 2011-2021

4 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)