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New gold find, not price spike, lures miners to Compostela

/ 08:19 PM December 24, 2011

Newly discovered gold veins contribute more to the sprouting of “gold rush” areas in Compostela Valley than the spike of prices of the precious metal in the world market, according to local officials and miners in the gold-rich towns of the province.

The influx of small- and big-time miners in most of the 11 municipalities has been noted in recent months but this has to do with good gold prospects, Gov. Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy said in a recent interview. “Yes, there are reports of (new gold rush areas) but the discovery of supposed rich deposits are the main driving force.”

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Compostela Valley nevertheless has benefited in the upswing of gold prices, Uy said, considering that thousands of Comvaleños rely on small-scale mining for a living.

Prices of raw gold fetches from P1,900 to P2,000 a gram in gold buying stations in Tagum City, and could go up depending on its quality in carats,  miners said.

An employee of a gold buying station acknowledged that the buying price is influenced by the movement of the metal’s value at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), where they resell the gold nuggets bought from the miners.

Quality

“If Bangko Sentral’s buying price is high, our buying price also increases. But it still depends (on the quality of the gold),” said the employee, who introduced himself as Bert, and whose store is located along Tagum’s Quirante II Street.

Based on the BSP’s buying price on Tuesday, a gram of gold fetches $59.29 or roughly P2,520. The standard unit in gold trade is troy oz. which is equivalent to 31.10 grams. At BSP, a troy oz. costs about $1,853 or about P78,733.

Eric Luzon, a miner at the gold-rich village of Pamintaran in Maragusan town, said at least 3,000 people had flocked to the village and started digging in June.

“Some portions have good deposits but you have to dig deeper. Many self-financing miners had to resort to banding with midlevel financiers, composed of Tagum-based businessmen, so they could sustain their operations. We, in the mountains, are not really keen at monitoring gold price changes. But the higher the prices at gold buying stations, the better,” Luzon said in the vernacular.

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“What we’re after is rich, shallow gold deposits,” he said

Disasters

Uy said the province has been regulating the operation of both small-scale and big-scale mining in nine towns, following disasters attributed to abusive gold-digging activities.

He said mayors were in constant monitoring on known gold-rush sites in their municipalities so as to ensure local ordinances on safe mining were being followed.

In Compostela town, new gold prospects in the community of Bango in Barangay (village) Ngan drew hundreds of people, and that even laborers at banana plantations and other “non-miners” shifted to gold-digging to try to strike it big, Mayor Jessie Bolo said.

“We really cannot control these people (from swarming to the mining area). What we can do is see to it that their operations are being closely monitored so accidents and disasters could be avoided and pollution from mine wastes minimized,” Bolo said.

He added that mining operations in Bango had been in an on-and-off mode since gold was first discovered there in the early 1980s.

In the capital town of Nabunturan, officials are seeking to prevent small-scale miners encroaching into the Mainit National Park, which reportedly is being threatened by pollution from mine tailings.

Complaints

Due to complaints from residents and environment officials, the gold-rush area in Mainit has already been closed down, a staff member from the office of Mayor Romeo Clarin said.

“But the miners kept coming back, most of whom transients from other places,” the staff member, who refused to be named, said in a phone interview.

Uy said there were proposals to delineate portions of the national park where miners are operating, and that local officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “are amenable to these.”

“We are strictly implementing a no-habitation policy in our mining areas. We’ve learned harsh lessons in previous tragedies that most of the casualties were miners’ families. We’re trying to prevent that from happening again,” the governor said.

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TAGS: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, disaster, Gold, gold reserves, Gold rush, gold-digging activities, Mainit National Park, Mining
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