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July 11, 2004

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Negative health effects of Lepanto's mining highlighted in DOH national forum

A research entitled “Health Profile of Communities Living Near Corporate Gold Mining Operations in Mankayan, Benguet Province (Preliminary Findings of an Environmental and Occupational Hazard Assessment)” was awarded first prize in the Department of Health’s Poster Exhibit Contest. The activity was part of the 5th Health Research for Action Nation Forum held last June 3-4 at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel. Co-sponsors of the event were the Department of Health’s Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau and the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

The research was authored by Dr. Ana Marie R. Leung, Chairperson of the Department of Preventive and Community Medicine of Saint Louis University and concurrent spokesperson of the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM). Dr. Teresita Bonoan, Regional Director of DOH-CAR was on hand to receive the award with her.

This study aims to describe the health profile of communities living near corporate gold mining and of company-employed mineworkers. It aims to determine the prevalence of symptoms attributable to acid mine drainage among the community residents as well as the prevalence of work-associated symptoms among the mineworkers.

Questionnaire-guided interviews were conducted among 788 residents living in 3 communities (sitios) lying downstream from the operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation in Mankayan, Benguet. Questionnaire-guided interviews and physical examination of 88 Lepanto mineworkers were also conducted.

Most significant were the findings for Sitio Paalaban, Barangay Paco. The residents living nearer the mine drainage (Lower Paalaban) were found to report significantly more skin, eye, nasal and gastrointestinal (particularly vomiting) symptoms than those living farther away from the mine drainage (Upper Paalaban). Also alarming are the results of 2-day serial and spot water sampling at the company mill outlet and mine tailings dam 5A which yielded lead, mercury and cyanide levels above the maximum safety level set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and/or the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

 Among the mineworkers hired by Lepanto, the most prevalent injuries were lacerations (43.18%), crushing injuries (17.05%), bruises (1477%) and fractures (13.64%) usually involving rock or timber fall. Twenty percent (20%) of these cases required hospitalization. Most prevalent among the work-associated symptoms reported by the mineworkers were: phlegm production (79.55%), joint pain (78.41%), eye irritation (67.05%), headache (55.68%), dyspnea (48.86%) and dizziness (36.36%). Most prevalent abnormal physical findings were hypertension (28.41%) and perforated eardrum (19.32%). The supply and use of personal protective equipment was also identified as an area that Lepanto needs to improve on significantly. #

Save the Abra River Movement
Ressurection Compound
No. 362 Magsaysay Ave.,
2600, Baguio City, Philippines
Tel./Fax: +63-74-442-2572

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