‘Minahang Bayan’ opens in Benguet mining town | Inquirer News

‘Minahang Bayan’ opens in Benguet mining town

/ 05:10 AM December 23, 2018

BAGUIO CITY — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has allowed a 1-hectare “Minahang Bayan” (people’s mine) exclusively for pocket miners at a site in Itogon town, Benguet province, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) here said on Saturday.

The Minahang Bayan in Itogon was the first to be segregated in the Cordilleras after it received the consent of patent owner, Benguet Corp., the country’s first mining company, the MGB said.

Members of the Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association applied for the right to mine in the area after they lost their tunnels in July, when the mining bureau started closing down illegal mining sites in the region.


Cimatu withdrew all pocket mining permits and ordered a crackdown on illegal tunnels after a landslide, triggered by Typhoon “Ompong” (international name: Mangkhut), killed more than 100 people, mostly pocket miners, in Itogon in September.


Since pocket mining remains an informal trade, the government has scarce information on how many people are affected by the crackdown.

Inadequate data

But initial estimates place the number between 20,000 and 100,000 people, according to Ralph Pablo, Cordillera director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Pablo said pocket mining remained “a significant source of livelihood and employment for many people in the Cordillera.”

Data on gold production is also inadequate, with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records showing that only 15 kilograms of gold, worth P22.4 million, were bought from small-scale miners in 2015, he said.

This was because most pocket miners sold their gold in the black market to avoid paying taxes, he said.


“In 2018, a key informant estimated that an average of 200 kg of gold per month was sold in the black market. At an average of P1,000 per gram, this amounted to P200 million per month or P2.4 billion per year [in lost income for the pocket mining communities],” he said.

Local leaders said integrating the pocket mining sector into the mining industry was needed to ease the economic impact of the crackdown and to manage pollution from mining activities. —Vincent Cabreza

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TAGS: DENR, Itogon, MGB, pocket mining, Ralph Pablo, Roy Cimatu

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