Benguet Corporation (BC) earns P15,000 ($267.86 based on a $1:P56 exchange rate) each day or P450,000 a month from “entrance fees” it collects from 1,000 small-scale miners who work its L-070 open pit mine site in Sitio Antamok, Brgy. Loacan in Itogon, Benguet.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat.com
BAGUIO CITY — Benguet Corporation (BC) earns P15,000 ($267.86 based on a $1:P56 exchange rate) each day or P450,000 a month from “entrance fees” it collects from 1,000 small-scale miners who work its L-070 open pit mine site in Sitio Antamok, Barangay Loacan in Itogon, Benguet.
Despite this, a 48-year-old miner who has been working for BC since 2002 reveals that the company does not even spend a centavo on the maintenance of the mine site. The man ways are left unlit, ventilation facilities are damaged and the rotting timber and iron railings emit fatal gas inside tunnels, he says.
“Dakami a ti mangitrabtrabaho kadagiti pagnaan tapno nasaysayaat a maka-abante kami” (It is us who work the man ways to be able to work further ahead), the respondent, who requested anonymity, told Nordis.
“Nadagsen ti P15 nga inaldaw ngem an-anusan mi ta awan met ti sabali a panggedan” (P15 a day as entrance fee is too much but we have to make do because we do not have any other work), he also said.
He confides that in 2003, a miner fainted inside a tunnel and died from gas poisoning. The company did not even give financial help to the grieving family, he says.
The miner said the company collects the daily fees through a pocket miners’ association which entered into a contract mining venture with BC.
Unlike in the Acupan and Balatoc mines where the company gets 50 percent of the total mine ore production and takes care of milling all the ore, BC leaves the milling to the Antamok miners.
Miners in all of BC’s partnership mines have to rent the ball mill at P100 per load to process the gold ore.
In Acupan and Balatoc, however, the company processes all the ore and keeps the tailings for further processing. Private ball mill owners get the tailings. Seventy per cent of the gold are recovered in the tailings when further subjected to the carbon-in-pulp (CIP) mill.
In Acupan, each 25-kilo sack of the tailings commands P75-P100. Ball mill operators near the Antamok mines either sell the tailings or process it in privately-owned CIP mills.
Not yet earning
The workers are grouped into smaller kumpanya (literally, companies) who work certain destinos (destinations) underground. Our respondent’s company has been working its destino for three years now and has not hit any ore body.
“Awan ti produksyon isunga makisagsagaok kami kadagiti kumpanya a nakatsamba” (We have not produced so we ask other companies who have found the ore), the Nordis source said. Sagaok is an indigenous equity-sharing scheme among Cordillera’s small-scale miners.
The company, he says, has a sure earning while the miners sweat it out with no assurance of compensation for a day’s toil.
He also wants the company to rehabilitate the mines or at least provide materials for its maintenance.
Late last year, the price of gold peaked at $450 per ounce and is expected to rise.
BC’s partnership mining scheme is among those listed as “best practice” in wealth-sharing by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources two years ago.
But its L-1500 in Acupan mine site, also in Itogon, was barricaded by surrounding communities for its possible adverse effects on the communities and the environment. Local small-scale miners also rejected the terms and conditions the company offered in the contract to miners from other provinces in the Cordillera region. Northern Dispatch / Bulatlat.com