MAC: Mines and Communities

Small Miners Take Up Arms To Resist Crackdown

Published by MAC on 2006-03-27
Source: Inquirer

Small miners take up arms to resist crackdown

By Melvin Gascon, Inquirer -

27th March 2006

Editor's Note: Published on Page A13 of the March 28, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BAYOMBONG, NUEVA VIZCAYA-Small miners who are conducting gold panning operations in a remote village in upland Kasibu town have taken up arms, in apparent anticipation of a military crackdown against them, a mining official here confirmed on Monday. Jerrysal Mangaoang, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Cagayan Valley, said concerns over security prompted officials to defer the clearing operation which a multi-sectoral task force was set to launch last month against illegal miners in Didipio village.

"We were told of the presence of armed elements in the area. I suppose these are miners who can afford (to buy firearms)," he said.

The task force was formed last month to curb the rampant small mining in Dinkidi Hill in Didipio, site of the proposed large-scale mining project of Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (APMI), an Australian company.

Since 1994, APMI, formerly Climax Arimco Mining Corp., has been intending to conduct a large-scale mining operation for gold and copper on Dinkidi Hill. However, it has failed to start operations due to the strong opposition of local communities.

Mangaoang said they had intended to bring in military and police personnel to drive out about 300 small miners from the area.

The miners were composed of Didipio villagers and residents from as far as Ifugao and Benguet.

"We'll have to stop them (small-scale miners), then we will secure the area so they can no longer go back," he said.

Local officials have expressed alarm over the haphazard mining being conducted by small miners, who have dug tunnels on Dinkidi Hill and have been openly using explosives for their operations.

The operation has already caused the death of an Ifugao miner due to a dynamite blast in late December 2005.

The gold rush has also attracted villagers as well as strangers, which they blamed for the increase in robbery cases there.

But antimining groups objected to the planned use of soldiers and policemen against the small-scale miners, fearing that the situation "might escalate into a bigger problem."

"Our findings revealed that many of the Didipio people are not aware of the small-scale mining act, which they can use as an option instead of engaging in something that is illegal," said Sr. Maria Eden Orlino, directress of the Church-based Diocesan Social Action Commission here.

Peter Duyapat, a village official, said small miners have trooped to the site following rumors that the APMI was set to start its operations this year.

"They believe that they-not a foreign company-should reap the wealth of their land," he said.

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