Table Talk: Where there’s gold there is death PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 14:24

BY Mike S Apostol

Compostela Valley (ComVal) was a forest jungle and rock mountains far from settlement many years back until one day gold prospectors from Luzon and the Visayas discovered gold in its sandy soil and rocks. The news spread like wildfire throughout Mindanao and fortune seekers flock to the mountains of Compostela by the thousands, staking mining claims and area. Puntukan municipality in Compostela Valley province, from a sitio became a booming mining municipality. Information gathered from friends in Davao City revealed that, the gold rush at Pantukan at its early stage when gold was discovered there, murder and extortion were already happening. People died because armed thugs often grab their mining area then extortion syndicates appeared in the guise of giving protection to miners. Lawless elements and communist ideologues joined the fray to have a slice of the wealth of the Pantukan Mountains.
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Through the years thousands of migrants trooped to the mining sites, some applying as gold diggers in crude tunnels, where many have died of suffocation due to inadequate ventilation but the pay was good, more than what they earned as ordinary laborers in their hometown. Some migrants to the mining site, brought their lifetime savings to invest hoping to reap profits a thousand fold while some invested in gold tunneling with the use of toxic chemicals to extract the gold embedded on the soil and rocks they gathered underground. While people are dying because of mining accidents, the toxic chemicals too, found their way downstream, polluting rivers. Events in the past reported of epidemics occurring at the mining sites, like cholera outbreak due to the unsanitary environment and tuberculosis, a lung sickness as the number one chronic health problems of miners. This is caused by the vapors of toxic chemicals miners inhale every day. The orovincial and municipal governments where these mining areas are located have forewarned all the miners thereat on the risk and threat to their lives on the general environment of the mining areas, but, these warnings were unheeded. Still, people who wanted to look for a better life continued to migrate to these areas.
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The idea of easy big money set aside the idea of safety measures. People just dug and dug for gold until underground of those gold mountains in Puntukan municipality became hollow that cannot anymore hold on to the weight above ground. Due to the abuse in tunneling for gold, the heavy rains on the mountaintop began to sip on the soft topsoil of the mountains until it reached the hollow underground tunnel and caved in until a landslide happened to the greater portion of the mountain’s loose top soil. The result was tragic and devastating, scores of miners and their family members are dead and missing.
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The wrath of nature is unpredictable and it will strike anytime and anywhere but ample time and chances are given to anybody for preparation to be safe. All it needs is to  follow the advices and warning of the government, because next to God, the government is in-charge of our well-being.
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Scoop: In Zamboanga City, gold digging and tunneling are also happening in the mountains of the East and West Coasts by small time miners. Shall we wait for a disaster before we move? The city government and the DENR should verify on the existence of these small time miners. Newspapers reported last week that armed robbers ransacked a store buying gold at the east coast. This goes without saying that indeed gold mining is here in the city.