The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) today urged the government to take a tougher stance against illegal small-scale mining (SSM) activities in the country following reports that dozens of small-scale miners in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet fell victim to landslides at the height of Typhoon Ompong.

Illegal SSM does not employ the same stringent safety practices required of legitimate large-scale mining operators.

The SSM victims in Ucab are part of the illegal gold mining activities near an old abandoned bunkhouse of Benguet Corporation, a member of COMP. The area is a few kilometers away from the company’s  Balatoc and Dalicno underground mines in Itogon.  Benguet Corp. said it had sent numerous letters to the SSM operators in Ucab ordering them to vacate the area as it had been identified by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as a geohazard zone prone to landslides.

Nevertheless, Benguet Corp., along with Philex Mining Corporation, have deployed their rescue teams in partnership with the MGB-Cordillera Autonomous Region to actively participate in the search, rescue and retrieval operations in Ucab and other areas where their assistance is needed.   There were no reported casualties in the host mining communities of Benguet Corp. and Philex.

All other COMP member-companies in Northern and Central Luzon have also mobilized their rescue and relief teams in their respective host mining communities.

MGB estimates that more than 60% of the gold mined in the Philippines are from unregulated SSM operations.  Apart from endangering the lives of poor mining workers and destroying the environment, illegal SSMs do not pay taxes and are the breeding ground of other social ills, such as child labor, prostitution, illegal drugs, gun running, and use of banned toxic chemicals.

Reference: Rocky G. Dimaculangan, VP for Communications, Mobile #0917 621 6103