Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 29 August 25 - 31, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Bane Called Victoria
kilometers yonder is a gold mine called Victoria.”
This sign greets visitors of Barangay Bulalacao, Mankayan, a town in the mountainous province of Benguet in northern Philippines and host to the mining activities of Lepanto Consolidated Mines Corporation (LCMCo). For newcomers, the sign is an indication of the town’s rich resources and progress. Not for the people of Mankayan. Part of an indigenous tribe called Kankanaeys, the lives of Mankayan residents have been in danger since Lepanto started its underground copper mining in 1936 and gold mining in 1995.
Audrey Mary Beltran and
A landslide brings death and destruction in this mining village. Photo by Cordillera People's Alliance
has a total land area of 16,336 hectares or five percent of the total land area
of Benguet. It is composed of 12 barangays namely, Balili, Bedbed, Bulalacao,
Cabiten, Colalo, Guinaoang, Paco Palasaan, Poblacion, Sapid, Tabeo and Taneg.
Poblacion serves as the center for commercial
and administrative centers of the municipality.
resources of minerals, forests, agricultural lands and water could be found
within Mankayan boundaries. Reserves of gold, copper and silver are found of Lepanto and Suyoc. Tributary streams of Abra River like Mankayan River,
Guellong Creek, Imbanguila River, Suyoc River and the Apaoan Creek are the main
sources of irrigation for the agricultural needs of the farmers of Mankayan.
Forest resources are to be found within the municipality, part of the 12,855
hectares of forest that cover Mankayan, Bakun and the adjoining Ilocos Sur
1998 Company Report of LCMCo. states that the company is the number one gold
producer in the country. Its shift from copper to gold mining was brought about
by the discovery of a gold vein in September 1995 a kilometer south of its
mining operation. According to the
LCMCo., this is the only major gold find in the Philippines for the past two
it the Victoria Gold Project, LCMCo.’s gold mining operation, mined out
106,648 ounces of gold and 71,155 ounces of silver from a daily tonnage of 1,300
tons in 1997, its first year of operation. By the end of the year, there was an
increase of 1,500 tons per day. By 1998, there was a 32 percent increase in gold
production. The continuing gold
extraction averages at 3,240 tons of gold per day.
while the LCMCo. has been promoting its Victoria Gold Find and boasting of how
it will haul millions of pesos for its stockholders, communities in Mankayan
started to experience the damaging effects of LCMCo.’s mining operations.
bane to the people
to Fernando Mangili, secretary general of Alyansa Dagiti Pesante iti Taeng
Kordilyera (Alliance of Peasants in the Cordillera Homeland or APIT TAKO), the
silt from the mine tailings have buried hectares of productive agricultural land
being tilled by farmers. It has also led to the destruction of the Cervantes and
Abra River and other water tributaries, resulting in the death of aquatic life.
LCMCo. uses an average of three tons of cyanide per day in their mining
operations, according to Albert Diego, secretary of the Colalo Residents
Organization (CRO) and one of the convenors of the Mankayan Against Lepanto
Expansion (MALEX). The flow of such
toxic chemicals in the past has found its way even to farmlands, lessening the
the LCMCo. was granted perpetual water rights to six of the nine rivers in
North Benguet. This is to enable
LCMCo. to generate the 500 metric tons of water it needs for gold processing.
the company targeting to produce 2,500-5,000 tons of ore per day, Mankayan folks
expect mining activities will heighten even more in the next months.
The company has in fact been using 76 Load Haul and Dump (LHD) machines
and three jumbo drills.
environmental destruction has already reached a massive scale with the continued
aggressive project implementation.
most evident effect of LCMCo’s mining is the Colalo tragedy in 1999 when a
landslide occurred, killing Mr. Gomez and sinking the Mankayan Elementary
School,” said Diego. Gomez was a resident who volunteered to retrieve school
equipment but died while inside the school building. His body was never found.
added, “Another clear proof is the sinking of the Poblacion. Aside from this,
cracks on the walls and floors of our houses could be evidently seen. We blame
Lepanto for all of these tragic events.”
have already gone through 66 years of mining operations,” said Mangili. “It
has wreaked havoc to the environment, livelihood and properties of the
residents. In 66 years, only Lepanto has gained from the mining (operations),
not the people. We must stop Lepanto’s expansion!”
believes that relocation is not the answer to the suffering of the people of
Mankayan. Instead, it strongly pushes for the end of LCMCo operations in the
Cordillera and in the country. In a resolution passed during the
summit, MALEX also called for the junking of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995
that paved the way for further liberalization of the mining industry.
the people want is to stop the operation of LCMCo. before it extracts all our
resources, put our lives in further danger or, worst of all, put an end to our
existence,” said Diego.
is our ancestral land and it is our duty to protect it. Our ancestors gave us
this land and we should give this to the next generations,” said Manong
Julian, a resident of Guinaoang.
also demands compensation for the destruction of property and loss of sources
of livelihood due to the sinking of land and landslide.
the National Minority Week last August 12-16, MALEX joined the
contingent of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Kalipunan ng mga
Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP) in a protest caravan against
development aggression and militarization.
first stop was the LCMCo.’s national office in Makati. Mankayan residents
were supposed to deposit bags of silt in front of the LCMCo office as a symbol
of their protest. They were however shoved by policemen who tried to prevent
them from getting near the main door. In their anger, members of the
indigenous group threw the mine tailings and silt at the steps of the LCMCo’s
is just a bit of the garbage Lepanto has been dumping on our ancestral
lands. We are just returning it to them,” said Windel Bolinget, CPA
secretary general. Bulatlat.com