October 8, 2008

Gold Glitters for Small-scale Miners

The glitter of gold is driving Benguet’s small-scale miners into the bowels of the earth. And as long as the rocks glow with ore, the miners will be there, working on the dark, dank and dangerous tunnels, with their chisels and hammers.

Not even the recent death of six miners, who were trapped along with 10 others inside an abandoned tunnel in Itogon town, will slow down the miners.

It is their lifeblood, according to officials of the Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners (BFSSM), who say that the province now has more than 20,000 small-scale miners spread in tunnels in eight of 13 towns – Itogon, Tuba, Mankayan, Tublay, Kabayan, Bokod, Atok and Bakun.

But most of them are not registered with the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, which is required under the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7076).

That’s why, says Itogon Mayor Mario Godio, the town could not formally push gold production as its “One Town One Product” with the Department of Trade and Industry since the program needed the registration of product participants.

“The miners feel that the law is a burden to them,” Godio says.

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