Wonder who and how mining started here in the Philippines?
With the recent issue that gripped and threatened the mining industry in our country, it gave every Filipino a quick educational hindsight on the need to protect nature and our environment. Though some were just introduced to the term “responsible mining”, it awakened the environmental “spirit” in each one of us to reflect on how we manage our environmental resources, how we benefit from it and how we abuse it. It’s a good thing that many are now aware and willing to step in to protect mother nature.
I’ve personally been to 3 mining sites in the country – one that mines nickel in Zambales, one that mines black Sand in Dumaguete and one that mines gold in Masbate. And I can tell pointblank which one does things “right” or responsibly mines, and which one mines and destroy. And it got me thinking, can we live without mining? Can we live without nickel, gold, copper and other minerals? And my answer — no. We can’t live without mining simple because we are already in the age of technology and modernization needs the minerals of the earth. Mining is an integral part of the development of humanity and the universe and for me to understand it more, I know I had to dig deep into the roots of how mining started in our country.
How and when did mining began in the Philippines?
Mining has always been a part of the Filipino lives. This was evident as early as 1000 BC when our ancestors mined for gold, silver, copper and iron and made into gold ingots, chains, calombigas, earrings, gold dagger hangers and even tooth plating. Natives and early Filipinos bartered for gold, pearls and agate with merchants from Arab, Asia and Europe. That is why when Ferdinand Magellan first saw the natives wearing gold ornaments from head to toe … he knew our island is rich not only in gold but with other minerals. He had every reason to conquer us not more than our spices or goods, religion or God but because of Gold.
The Spaniards 1st attempted to colonize the highlands or the Mountain Provinces because of its rich gold mines, but they failed. It was in 1620 when the Spanish explorers succeeded in controlling some Igorot gold mines in La Trinidad Valley. It wasn’t only gold that the Spaniards mine, but also coal.
Coal was first discovered in the Philippine islands in 1827 in the island of Cebu although there was little interest from the Spanish colonial government or private individuals to exploit the resource until the arrival of steamships in the archipelago. Still, the Spaniards went gaga with our rich deposit of gold that they even made a law called Inspeccion de Minas, to inspect the existence of minerals in the archipelago.
Mining companies started operating in the province in 1930. This brought jobs, and many lowlanders migrated to Benguet, especially in towns surrounding the gold mines, such as Itogon, Mankayan and Tuba.
The first commercial mine in the Philippines was in Benguet, in Central Luzon, established by the Benguet Mining Corporation. But it wasn’t long when the Americans arrived and heard of the gold deposits here in our country, that they made a thorough and extensive geological survey that validated the Philippines as a mineral-rich country. They issued Act 468, a law that basically gave the government the right to reserve mineral lands for its own purposes, including the commercialization of the Benguet gold mining.
In 1921, only small-scale gold mining existed. Gold was the most important mineral from 1933-1941. When World War II broke, it started the mining of other minerals as Japanese coerces the Filipinos to mine metals to be used for war. This started the commercialization, exploitation and degeneration of our mountains. Large-scale copper mining reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s. By the late 80s, world demand for copper decreased in favour of gold.
The mining industry is still evolving as laws are adjusted to protect the interest of our people and the environment. This is to put the best interest of our country who is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper, and chromite. No wonder, multi-billion companies will stop at nothing to mine our resources that is why a responsible mining act and an effective environmental management program to rehabilitate the affected areas must been enforced and implemented immediately.