Mt. Diwalwal

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Located in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, Mt. Diwalwal is said to hold the Philippines' largest gold deposit - perhaps even one of the largest in the world, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Today, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas estimates that some P2 billion worth of gold is produced in Diwalwal annually.

Contents

History

Diwalwal's rich gold reserves were first discovered by lowlanders in the 1970's. In 1982, having discovered the gold as well, Lumads (Southern Mindanao natives) headed by Datu Camilio Banad began mining the precious metal. Crude tools and equpiment were used as they burrowed ito the mountain, creating rather confusing tunnels - according to some miners, these resemble a plate of noodles. It was in the 1980's that Mt. Diwalwal became a gold-rush site, attracting thousands of prospectors from around the country.

Since then, Diwalwal has become a "Wild West" of sorts, with hundreds of illegal small-scale mines competing for territory and gold and even engaging in shootouts with their rivals.

In 2002, the Philippine government took over the mining site, in an attempt to "rationalize" mining operations and to give miners a larger share of the wealth generated in Diwalwal. The DENR then signed service contracts that, essentially, legitimized the operations of these subsistence miners.

Recently, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered a review of government policy on illegal mining operations on the mountain.

Issues

The competing mine operators in Diwalwal use primitive and environmentally harmful mining technology. Moreover, these operators build fragile tunnels that are in constant risk of collapse. Compounding this, many of their workers are minors - some as young as 12 years old. These must then tunnel as deep as 100 meters, all while lacking such necessities as hard hats. Since the work last up to 16 hours, many of these miners faint inside the mines from the combined lack of food and breathable air.

This does not include the youth (some aged 9) who rely on the mines as well, sifting ore from gold and working with mercury, all in order to support their families. Women and children are not spared from this labor - to put rice on the dinner table, they themselves must work with the ore.

In October 27, 2005, a dynamite blast caused the collapse of a tunnel in one of the small-scale mines, leaving at least 18 miners killed. Many more are missing and are presumed dead. In truth, the two decade's worth of uncontrollable mining by these small-scale mines as caused an unstable soil condition in the are. It is, therefore, of little suprise that Diwalwal has been identified by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as a high-risk area for landslides.


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Citation

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