33 were confirmed dead in Itogon, Benguet, Philippines due to a mining site landslide caused by Mangkhut (Ompong).
This prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to cease and desist Small Scale Mining (SSM) in the Cordillera region.
The Cordillera Administrative Region is the only landlocked region in the Philippines. It includes the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province.
The Secretary also revoked permits already issued to 10 small scale mining companies.
The United Nations (UN) defines small scale mining as, “any single unit mining operation having an annual production of unprocessed materials of 50,000 tonnes, or less as measured at the entrance of the mine” (Dreschler, 2001).
Small scale mining is mostly practiced in the poverty-stricken areas of developing countries according to Malhotra (2013).
It has been practiced in the Philippines since the 3rd century A.D. (Rovillos, 2003).
About four years ago a group of university professors including me visited Banaue in Ifugao. We did a research on educational and environmental issues.
I did a study on Environmental Education. On whether or not it is incorporated in the teacher’s lessons.
Another colleague did a study about small scale mining.
On whether the indigenous community of Banaue was aware on the small scale mining issues.
Mining is the source of income of the people.
Mining is beneficial to the people.
They earn more in mining than in farming.
In the above mentioned study, the respondents said the financier even give the miners daily food.
The miners earn P10,000 – P20,000 ($200 – $400) a month.
At Sagada also in the Cordillera, I had seen that the women and the children were the ones tending to the farms.
When I asked one woman why, she told me her husband was away working as a miner.
The miners only went home during weekends.
Mining has negative effects on the environment though:
- Mercury pollution from gold processing
- Land degradation
- Open holes
- Mining pits
- Steep Walls of the pits
- Waste Rock disposal
- Destruction of vegetation
The people are aware on the negative effects of mining activities in their community.
Is it worth it?
It is their means of livelihood.
Do they have a choice?
Thus, the tragedy caused by typhoon Mangkhut or Ompong.
What should be done?
The government should create other sources of income, means of livelihood, other possible industries for the indigents.