Big mining company steals livelihood of small miners in Benguet

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Miners of the Dontog-Manganese Pocket Miners Association (DOMAPMA) barricaded against the big mining company Benguet Corporation, Inc. (BCI) in Sitio Dalicno, Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet on May 13. The barricade is part of their struggle to defend their rights to land and livelihood against BCI’s forced seizure of DOMAPMA’s pocket mines and unreasonable rental increases for mining equipment.

At the behest of the BCI, the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), led by the Mining and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR) also imposed a ban against DOMAPMA’s small-scale mining operations on the basis of “regulation” and “environmental issues” allegedly caused by small-scale mining. The miners believe that this is just an excuse for the BCI to encroach in the area.

About 500 to 1,000 workers will lose their livelihood due to the illegal stoppage of their livelihood. This also affects the livelihood of the indigenous people in the community and neighboring barangays, and even in other provinces in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley who work here.

Even before banning small-scale mining operations, BCI has already tried to impose its Application for Production Sharing Agreement 105 (APSA 105) which covers the area of operation of DOMAPMA,including some parts of the barangays of Ampucao and Virac. To open its operations, the company colluded with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to railroad and falsify documents. The company requested a Special Mining Permit to circumvent the process of obtaining Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from the area’s indigenous people.

“There is reason to believe that the suspension of DOMAPMA’s mining operations is related to BCI’s interest to divest it,” said the Itogon Interbarangay Alliance (IIB-A). The group said it will use this as a way for BCI to freely enter the community at the expense of the livelihood of miners and residents.

The group said the entry of the BCI will not only destroy their livelihood but will also trample on the Cordillera people’s culture and tradition in small-scale mining and development of mining towns that the indigenous peoople have been doing since before the era of colonization.

In April, other residents of Barangay Ampucao built their own barricade against the abusive and plunderous BCI. They demanded lower rental costs for mining equipment.

AB: Big mining company steals livelihood of small miners in Benguet