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Mine Safety Week 2004 reminds us how unsafe corporate mining is

Statement on the Occasion of Mining Safety Week 2004 by Save the Abra River Movement

Mine Safety Week is an occasion to remember how UNSAFE large-scale mining is. According to the International Labor Organization, mining accounts for only 1% of the global workforce yet it is responsible for up to 5% of fatal accidents at work (15,000 per year or 40 each day). From 1980-1986, the National Traumatic Occupational Fatality (NOTF) surveillance system of the US National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) concluded that the highest annual fatality rates were in mining (28.1 per 100,000 or 0.28%).

Just how UNSAFE corporate mining is has been documented in the second part of Dr. Ana Leung’s study entitled “Health Profile of Communities Living Near Corporate Mining Operations in Mankayan, Benguet”. This study won First Prize in the Poster Exhibit Contest of the 5th Health Research for Action National Forum held last June 2004, under the auspices of the Departments of Health and Science and Technology.

Based on interviews and physical examination of 88 Lepanto workers, major findings of this study showed that:

  • In 2002, 2 Lepanto mineworkers died at work. In 2003, there were 5 work-related deaths. And in the first quarter of 2004, there had already been 1 death.
  • 3 out of every 4 Lepanto mineworkers had suffered some sort of injury at work. These ranged from simple cuts and bruises to fractured bones or loss of a part of the body. Majority of these injuries involve rock or timber falling on the miners.
  • There was an observation by some workers that supervisors try to convince them not to report their injuries so that these are not included in official records. Others who are confined in the hospital or at home are asked to sign the time-in record so that no lost-time is reported. There is also a perception among the workers that not all information about their illnesses is revealed to them at the company hospital. Many prefer to have their x-rays and laboratory examinations done outside even if they have to pay for these themselves.
  • Use of personal protective equipment is inconsistent. Only 1 out of 2 workers wears a safety belt; only 1 out of every 5 wear gloves. Only 1 out of every 4 wear ear plugs. Workers report that it is the workers’ responsibility to ask for replacement of worn-out equipment such as ear plugs. Oftentimes, these are out-of-stock and the worker has to keep coming back to the supplies office. Respirators lack cartridge replacements. Workers improvise by using a towel or cloth to cover their nose and mouth from dust.
  • Major hazards to which underground mineworkers are exposed include: extreme heat, vibration of vehicles, drills and other equipment, loud noise from blasting, thick dust and fumes, and the carrying of heavy loads and strain of maintaining awkward positions for prolonged periods of time.
  • Despite all the dangers they face daily, the average salary of the mineworkers was only PhP 295.50 per day.

The findings of Dr. Leung’s study are consistent with other studies made including:

  • A 1997 study of underground gold mining in Itogon, Benguet (by the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development) reported being hit by falling objects as the leading type of accident, followed by suffocation from chemical fumes, crushing injuries involving the fingers, foreign body in the eye, fractures and dislocations of bones, accidental fall, electrocution, punctured wounds, pinning by slabs/ lumber/ mine car, accidental finger amputation, accidental blindness and being buried during an erosion or rockslide.
  • Dr. Ponciano Aberin, chief of DOH-CAR’s People with Disability Affairs, conducted a study in December 2003 among mining communities in Benguet. His research showed that many miners suffer from hearing defects due to the effects of blasting in underground tunnels.

But it is not only the mineworkers who suffer the ill effects of mining-for-profit. The Save the Abra River Movement continues to bear witness to the continuing damage that Lepanto has wreaked on the Abra River system. Its recent Environmental Investigatory Mission has shown that corporate mining continues to be UNSAFE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT and UNSAFE FOR THE COMMUNITIES living near Lepanto’s operations.

Stop Lepanto expansion! Clear the Abra River!
Workers’ occupational health and safety first before corporate profit!
Oppose environmental destruction and peoples’ displacement in the name of corporate profit!

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
Copyright © 2004 website content by Cordillera Peoples Alliance,
Copyright © 2004 website design by Borky Perida