COMMENTARY: The last vein dug at

May 5-11, 2011

Time and again, mining disaster came to the gold-rich Compostela Valley, and the well-publicised Panganason landslide is just the latest. We often have mining disasters striking in the Diwalwal since the 80s. In terms of casualty, 14 deaths and 8 missing, the latest is peanuts to the accumulated deaths and disaparacedos in Diwalwal, which still remains as the biggest mine scoured by small, medium and big miners and by the national government that keeps it now a national treasure.

But the latest Panganason disaster again brings national attention and concern to the hitherto small-scale mining industry that has now grown so medium and big that the eastern mineralized region of the province – from Diwalwal terrains in the north circumnavigating the eastern-to-northern mountains in Bango at the border of Cateel, Davao Oriental to Pamintaran of highland Maragusan down to the golden triangle of Mainit, Bukal and Tagnocon mountaintops of Nabunturan and to the gold-rich Marasaline barangays of Mawab and the province’s coastal towns of Pantukan, Mabini and Maco. This mineralized region of the province evidently has rich gold deposits and Diwalwal alone is bruited about to contain the motherlode that can be mined to last for a century, and hence this has been always explored and scoured by a vast army of miners who learned and somehow now perfected the trade of getting and producing gold for mass employment and livelihood with their plantas, dynamite blasting, assay technology, Saddams and the like. The march of the local, endogenous, homegrown mining to evolve and develop continues. No matter that disasters come time and again and despite dangers and risks and the mining’s direct assault to the forest and environment, the tide to mine against all odds is practically irreversible. Ban people’s mining in Comval and there is mayhem. Ban it and there’s big trouble even revolt akin to those barricading of Tagmanok and Kalaw bridges that stopped the flow of transport in Davao City-Butuan route.

Indeed, disasters, dangers, occupational hazards and ill environmental impacts consist to form to be the twin to the massive development of endogenous mining that is feeding millions of stomachs in our provinces. Life and mining always go on for the Panganason miners and mining-dependent population though there’s present interruption amidst the calls for stoppage of mining activities in danger zones. But to all risks of their lives, no sooner miners would enter in declared danger zones and authorities would often take incursions in prohibited zones as death-defying act of their own volition.

As to defiant miners, it’s indeed their own risks so long as they can catch again the gold vein last struck and dug at in buried section underground. In their hardwill tunnelling and aditing ingenuity surely they can catch the last vein dug at akin to the worst cave-in-bardown-fire disaster at Balite in Diwalwal in May 1989 that had only temporarily stopped mining activities for about two years. But it gave birth to tramcars, centralization of management, tunnel buy-outs and sharing and alliances of then feuding tunnel owners while a mammoth, heavy mechanized, deep hardrock tunnelling separately emerged in the alliance of the JB-SEM mining entities. In the ensuring new and higher competition for the last veins dug at in the richest Balite underground new conflicts arose and escalated into violence until the national government made the win-win formula of giving service contracts to staking miners and tunnel operators in above 600 Level and postulated the theory that the government can directly takeover, operate and mine the Diwalwal mines. It was later proven that the takeover was just a precursor of selling most of Diwalwal to the foreign mining investors though the land as a gold-rich territory was discovered by the indigenous people and mined by the locals since 1983.

If the Panganason disaster can reflected on it is the thought of the reentry of the fact that the disaster (along with violence over gold) is a natural character of the homegrown mining industry. It can never kill local mining. And we only wait and see how local mining would evolve in the other side of the province, just as we saw how Diwalwal mining evolved to what it is now.
(Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)

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