By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Benguet Corporation, the oldest mining company in the Philippines, is letting go of a portion of its Antamok mine site that has been taken over by small-scale miners, several of them were killed at the recent landslide that took place in Itogon, Benguet.
At present, the entire mining industry was again the subject of intense scrutiny when a landslide incident in Itogon, Benguet killed and buried dozens of small-scale miners in the aftermath of strong rains brought about by Typhoon Ompong, the strongest typhoon to hit Northern Luzon in years.
The victims are part of the illegal gold mining activities near an old abandoned bunkhouse that happens to be owned by listed company Benguet Corporation, a member of Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).
The area is likewise a few kilometers away from the company’s Balatoc and Dalicno underground mines in Itogon.
And while it already clarified that operations on the said mine site has been put on hold since 1998, the company now wants to move forward by formally giving back portion, or 80 hectares, of its Benguet Antamok Gold Operation to the government so it could be converted to a Minahang Bayan area where small-scale miners could be regulated and legally operate.
“There was really intention for the company to reopen that site once the gold prices improve,” Reynaldo Mendoza, Benguet Corp.’s senior vice president for Public Affairs and Legal Services, said.
“That property has a lot of potential resources and now we’re giving it up because of illegal small-scale mining,” he added.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) estimates that more than 60 percent of the gold mined in the Philippines are from unregulated small scale mining operations.
“In terms of Antamok, we’re not sure about the exact resource estimate. The three major mines in Itogon – Antamok, Acupan, and Kelley – contribute about 60 percent of the gold production of the company during the ’90s.