1st mercury-free gold processing developed for small-scale miners in Iligan

mercury-free gold
The first mercury-free gold processing plant now stands in Iligan. Photo from Fortunato dela Pena Facebook.

The Philippines struck gold by going green and healthy as the first mercury-free gold processing facility was established for Iligan’s small-scale miners.

With the aim of dealing with the health risks of small-scale miners, the pilot plant is designed to provide safe, environment-friendly, and high-yielding methods of extracting gold by eliminating the use and improper disposal of mercury and cyanide.

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A team of engineers led by Professor Ephraim Ibarra from the Iligan Institute of Technology of the Mindanao State University (MSU-IIT) designed, developed, and put together the processing plant which they have been working on since 2015.

The gold processing plant is funded by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

The common service facility (CSF) plant can process 3.0 tons of run-of-mine gold ore for eight hours a day.

The entire process using Magnetic Separator takes several steps:

  1. It starts at the Jaw Crusher as primary crusher and a Roll Crusher as secondary crusher
  2. A Ball Mill will be liberating the gold (74 micrometer) from the gangue
  3. Hydro-cyclone will classify the materials in the pulp
  4. A Thickener will increase the % solids of the pulp before magnetic separation using Magnetic Separator then gravity concentration will commence using two sets of
  5. Micron mill Wave Tables (rougher and cleaner)
  6. And Viola! The final tails will be stored in the tailings storage facility
  7. The water is recovered and recycled back by a pump and will be utilized again by the processing plant

There is more!

In addition to the operation of the common service facility the following are expected to be set up soon:

  1. They will be setting up a similar facility on site where our Indigenous Peoples (IP) depend on small scale mining. This will be a collaboration among DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region X, DOST 10, MSU-IIT, the private sector helping IPs and the IP’s cooperative under the “Minahan ng Bayan” Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
  2. Pushing for the Adoption of the process/technology by mining firms in operation in order to eliminate the use of mercury and cyanide
  3. Improvement of land condition where different valuable plant species are cultivated

DOST Secretary Fotunato de la Pena led the inauguration of the common service facility (CSF) for artisanal small-scale gold mining in Iligan City, Northern Mindanao on January 21, 2020.

“Small scale miners, the industry that contributes up to 75% of the country’s gold production, face threats with their exposure to mercury and cyanide,” Secretary de la Peña said. “Through research grants and policy papers, DOST has helped chart the course of this industry,” the country’s Science chief added.

Innovations in science and technology have been championed by DOST in collaboration with other research institutions, among them, the Ateneo de Manila University-led discovery of a fern that may help remove mining contaminants, UP Los Banos helping Ilocos red tomato farmers, and helping local bamboo music instrument makers.

SEND CHEERS to the Iligan small scale miners and the developers of this environmentally-friendly gold processing plant!

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