Wednesday 1 May 2013

Miner killed by gas on Mindanao Island.

A miner reportedly died as a result of a gas leak in a small goldmine in Pantukan Municipality on Mindanao Island in the Philippines at around 6.00 pm local time (10.00 am GMT). The miner, named by local police as Jun Lope (24) of Lorento had been working in a shaft 15 m below the surface, ventilated by a blower pumping air to the workface through a hose, but failed to emerge after 30 minutes. A second miner entered the shaft to search for him, but was overcome by noxious fumes, although he managed to raise the alarm by pulling on the air hose, prompting a rescue. Mine gas is more usually associated with coal pits, where it is produced by compression of the coal, driving of volatile organic compounds, but can affect other forms of mine. The incident is being investigated by police in Pantunkan.

The Pantunkan area has a large number of small scale artisanal mines, which are unregulated and seldom have any form of health and safety procedure. Accidents are frequent in these mines, as are environmental problems, particularly as the gold metal is separated from the ore using cyanide and mercury. In 2011 a landslide killed 26 workers at a mine in Pantunkan.

A small scale mine in Pantunkan. The ground up ore is mixed with mercury in the settling pools to separate the gold. Golden Means.

The Philippine government has tried to regulate or close these mines in recent years, but has met with widespread opposition, as the mines are a source of income for many poor families. The small mines are more popular than large mining operations, which are often owned by foreign companies. These larger mines pay revenue to the central government, but often provide less employment in local communities, and frequently have a patchy record on environmental and safety issues.

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