By GINA DIZON
BONTOC, Mountain Province — Mining here in barangay Mainit is not sensitive to neighbors. Mining operations has led to the contamination of waters and decrease of crop harvest in downstream Guinaang.
Cristina Tamog-ong, 46, a resident and rice farmer of barangay Guinaang located downstream Mainit said her parcel of land which earlier produced 5 ‘iting’ or 25 bundles of rice has been reduced to only two to three ‘iting’ or only 10 to15 bundles of rice.
Mother to six children, Cristina said her rice harvest for three months has been reduced to only two months a year the previous three years. She buys commercial rice in Bontoc to augment her family’s rice harvest.
Guinaang’s 376 house-hold’s farm 49 hectares devoted for palay production from irrigated and rain fed areas with an estimate of 0.14 hectares per household. Rice production for the whole year is 2,521 cavans of rice produced in one cropping a year good for seven months.
Insufficient rice production is due to limited farm size, pest and diseases, and inadequate irrigation.
Due to lack of rice production to feed the population, at least P2,000 sacks of NFA rice was bought by Guinaang households from one NFA dealer July 2009 to July 2010.
Guinaang’s population needs at least 4,226 cavans the whole year as noted from the community profile by Charlot Camfili, community mobilization officer of the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP)-Montanosa Research and Development Center (MRDC).
Guinaang has been traditionally growing rice in two crops a year. Christina attributes the contamination of water from mining operations upstream Mainit led farmers to grow rice only once a year. Christina noted that soil has turned yellow the past years which could be an indication of chemicals used upstream Mainit in their mining operations.
Its’ not only rice harvest that was affected. Guinaang barangay Kagawad Hilary Charongen said camote has decreased in size since mining wastes from upland Mainit flowed downstream.
Cristina said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not visited their fields and creeks despite reports that Mainit has been doing mining operations with mine wastes flowing down Chawer Creek to their irrigation canals.
Mainit has been into more manageable small scale mining the previous years. For the past four months though, Mainit has moved to open pit and underground mining of at least eight mine portals.
This summer months has noted muck water from Chawer Creek flow down to the rice fields of Wangwang and Chachawis of Guinaang. Muck water as a result of mud washed from the mined gold ore restrains the growth of rice plants.
Mainit barangay chairman Jose Kedawan said the barangay officials of Guinaang and Mainit shall be conducting a joint meeting soon to resolve the problem of muck water flowing downstream.
It is also our concern as some of our rice supply is sourced from Guinaang rice fields, Kedawan said.
Guinaang Barangay captain Ninian Lang-agan welcomes Kedawan’s statement.
He said the officials of Mainit and Guinaang shall meet and appeal to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to act on the matter.
Foreigners contract local miners
Under the management of local manager-land owners, mined gold ore is reportedly bought by a Bangladeshi named Melon Hossain who also finances mining operations.
Also gathered, another Korean buys gold ore sold by local miners under the management of a local member of a clan who co-owns the land being mined.
The financer-buyers transport the gold ore to Baguio and Benguet for milling and processing and selling the refined gold. One of the local managers process the gold ore himself and sells the processed gold directly to buyers.
Clan members manage their own clan lands, a native of Mainit who stays in Bontoc said. And this includes the approval and management of mining operations going on now at Mainit.
Almost all the households and men of Mainit are involved in the mining operations, their labor paid at a day’s equivalent.
The financer- managers pay P1,000- P1,500 each per day to those who dig nava (gold ore) on a 15 day arrangement to one month depending on the hauling of the gold ore to Baguio, it was learned.
‘Komboy’ (manual hauling) fees are paid on a per kilo basis. One load weighs as much as 50 to 60 kilograms with one load costing at least 500 to 600 pesos. The hired komboy carries his load a kilometer from the mining site at Abu-us uphill to the road.
Gold mining here is an attractive source of income so other young men from neighboring upland barangays of Dalikan and Guinaang work as ‘komboys’ and miners in the mining site.
Although, the monetary value of the mined gold remains a question much as the buyers purchase the gold ore on a per kilo basis and the local miners paid on a per day basis.
“This arrangement is not fair to the local miners”, Marcelo Daweg, Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance-Mountain Province Chapter said. “Compared to the small scale mining done at Fidelisan, Sagada, the Fidelisan miners know the cost of their production and equally share in the monetary returns of the gold sold”, Daweg added.
It is another question how the gold ore is being hauled to Baguio and Benguet with no charges pressed on violators of transporting gold ore without having ore transport permits.
Open pit mining with the use of two back hoes coupled with underground mining is being used at the mines in Mainit. “This is not small scale mining anymore”, as claimed by observers.
Mainit barangay kagawad Andrew Chagyowen said the safety of the miners is a major concern. With the employ of both open pit and underground mining, there is a need for the DENR and the PMRB to urgently act on the matter, Chagyowen said.
Observers note experiences of mining communities including the deathly landslide at Surigao, Mindanao is enough for miners to take heed of; and for authorities to urgently put in place safety measures on the mining going on now at Mainit. # nordis.net