Mercury, cyanide gone in mining test project
ITOGON, BENGUET—The country’s first gold processing system that does not use mercury and cyanide was turned over by Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña to small-scale miners in Benguet province on March 10.
The facility was developed by mining engineers of the University of the Philippines (UP), who put together a system that uses nontoxic and established scientific procedures for separating valuable metals from ore.
Dr. Herman Mendoza, leader of the UP project, said experts began researching cleaner ways of processing gold in 2009.
A P25-million pilot facility was set up here by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for field tests.
Three other plants are being built for small-scale mines in Agusan del Norte and Camarines Norte provinces, and Compostela Valley region.
The Benguet plant was the first to become operational. It sits on a lot that has been identified by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez as site for a Minahang Bayan in the province.
“If that Minahang Bayan is approved, this [gold processing] plant will make it the cleanest small-scale mining area,” said Lomino Kaniteng, president of Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners, the group tasked with operating the facility.
According to Mendoza, the processing system tries to replace the harmful chemicals used by small-scale miners to extract gold and copper from ore.
The plant is capable of processing up to 15 metric tons of gold ore a day and can recover up to 80 percent of metals from ore, he said.
Benguet miners are going to operate the plant, which was designed to reduce the impact of mining on the environment.
According to Mendoza, the system expels clean water and solid waste that can be used as material for construction projects.
“We used taxpayers’ money to develop this for Filipinos. Let’s spread [the green technology],” he said. —EV ESPIRITU AND VINCENT CABREZA
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