Environmental justice group BAN Toxics, in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature – National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL), published a study on the illicit mercury trade in Mindanao, as well as the various governance practices for mercury in the study areas.
The report is also part of a global study commissioned by IUCN NL, which highlights similar experiences from developing countries dealing with illicit mercury trade.
The Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector is one of the primary sources of mercury pollution in the Philippines. Mercury has been used in mining to produce gold. It is considered a staple in ASGM communities because of its accessibility and ease of use despite the dangers it poses both to human health and the environment.
The majority of mercury used in ASGM communities in the country believed to enter illegally through Mindanao.
The study discusses various modus operandi for trading mercury in the island, and features interviews with various mining and government stakeholders. The study highlights inconsistent Local Government Unit (LGU) monitoring and regulation practices for mercury and ASGM, varying border control practices, allegations of bribery, and the lack of knowledge of authorities regarding mercury and its risks as the primary factors for the proliferation of illicit mercury trade in Mindanao.
The study asserts that mercury use causes health risks, environmental degradation, reduced economic opportunities and is a major factor affecting the formalization of ASGM communities. The study also recommends that regulating agencies should focus on mercury traders instead of miners, seeing as they play a more significant role in the prevalence of mercury use for gold mining.