Occupational Health and Safety in Small Scale Mining: Focus on Women Workers in the Philippines

Article excerpt

This study highlights women's participation in small scale mining, and their occupational safety and health conditions. Small scale mining is a significant source of income in many developing countries such as the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Colombia, Indonesia, Mali, and Zimbabwe. In the Philippines, small-scale mining has been the leading occupational group among all mineral industries. However, data show that women face many issues in mining such as double burden of work-home responsibilities, chemical exposure to either cyanide or mercury used in extracting gold, dust from manganese and other minerals, and respiratory and systemic diseases from toxic chemical exposures. Mining work is also labor-intensive and hazardous. Women work longer hours and have no social safety net. Gender sensitive strategies on occupational health and safety of women in small scale mining should be implemented. For long term development goals, women should be given alternative and more environmentally sustainable forms of employment. Gender equality and equity should always accompany any policy response as the impact goes beyond the employment and labour sector, to the overall stability of society considering the varied roles and functions that women take in both the public and private spheres of life.

Keywords: Small Scale Mining, Women in Mining, Occupational Health and Safety, Policy Directives in Mining, Artisanal Mining


Small scale mining is defined as a single unit mining operation with an annual production of unprocessed material of 50,000 tons or less. It is usually characterized as informal, illegal and unregulated by government, undercapitalized, utilizing simple tools and lacking in technology, and hazardous under labor intensive conditions. However, it is a source of income for those living in rural, remote, and poor areas of the country (Shoko, 2002). Small scale miners are described as poor people or small groups who are largely dependent on mining for sustenance (Aryee et. al., 2003 and Asia Pacific Learning Event, 2005).

Small scale mining is a significant source of income in many developing countries such as Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Colombia, Indonesia, Mali, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe (Shoko, 2002). In the Philippines, small-scale mining has been the leading occupational group among all mineral industries (Caballero, 1996).

Small scale and artisanal mining plays an important role in the Philippines' local revenue and currently employs 300,000 miners. About 80% of the country's gold supply come from small scale mining, making the country one of the top gold producers in the world (Zubiri, 2010). The Philippines earned P49.8B (USDl.lbillion) gold produce. Of this, P19.3B came from small scale gold mining. The trajectory is that the production of small scale mining will be constantly increasing while that of large scale mining will decrease (Zubiri, 2010).

Although women play significant roles in small scale-mining activities, they are rarely recognized as "miners." Consequently, the roles of women in small scale-mining have been largely overlooked by policy makers (Yakovleva, 2007). This study was conducted to look into the occupational health and safety issues of women engaged in small scale mining in the hope of increasing awareness on their plight. Likewise, the social, political, economic and gender issues associated with mining were put to light for consideration in the regulatory and policy frameworks of both local and national governments.


This was an assessment of the state of occupational safety and health in small scale mining in general and particularly focused on women, based on secondary data. National data were taken from agencies such as Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau, Occupational Safety and Health Center, Department of Labor and Employment, and other local agencies involved in occupational safety of women in mining. …


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