THINK ON THESE: Landslides are imminent!

The tragedy that struck near a gold mine in Maco, Davao de Oro won’t be the last!

As long as there are people who will buy gold for adornment and as a form of investment. As long as there are poor people who are willing to work in mining in exchange for a measly amount for survival of the family. As long as there are rich people who are willing to finance mining activities.

As long as there are politicians who won’t pass some laws prohibiting extraction of precious metals or habitation near mining areas. As long as the government won’t use its power to stop mining altogether. As long as people don’t stop cutting down trees, which make mountains devoid of their forest cover.

As long as people don’t do enough to help mitigate climate change, which causes the weather to be unpredictable and violent. As long as journalists stop reporting when everything seems back to normal.

And as long as the upland communities become complacent on their surroundings and the precarious place they are living.

Then, landslides – which are natural catastrophes – are always eminent and bound to happen anytime.

Mining, of course, is not the root cause of landslides but it is one of the triggering factors. The weather (incessant rains), topography, type of soil, and deforestation are also part of the equation. Not to be excluded are the people – rich, poor, politicians, and consumers – who are the main actors of every disaster.

Mining is the process of extracting minerals from the earth. Generally, minerals are classified into three groups, namely: metallic minerals (like iron, copper, and gold), non-metallic (example: limestone), and mineral fuels (coal is the best example).

Some of these precious minerals can be found in the Philippines, as it straddles the Western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The plate tectonics have caused the deposition of rich minerals in this part of the world.

“The Philippines is endowed with bountiful metallic and non-metallic mineral resources,” said Ramon J.P. Paje, then the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in a speech delivered during the Asia Mining Congress 2011 in Singapore.

Mining per se is not bad. If some say so, then they should stop using computers, cameras, pens, mobile phones, washing machines, refrigerators and freezers, and vehicles. All these are products of mining.

They should also stop dwelling in a house, apartment, hotel, or condominium as these use some products of mining like nails, steels, tins for roofs, and electric wires. The air-conditioners and fans are also products of mining.

It’s greed – irresponsible mining, that is – that makes mining bad. As German social psychologist Erich Fromm puts it: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”

Currently, gold is among the most sought-after metallic commodities. When it comes to mining, the metal that comes to mind among Filipinos is gold. And Davao de Oro is known for its gold. In fact, the name of the province itself – “oro” is the Spanish term for gold – is a proof of this.

In Isles of Gold: History of Mining in the Philippines, it was stated that the country relied on the mining industry as a major source of foreign investment since the 1900’s and it has always been making a major contribution to the country’s gross domestic product. In the early 1980s, the country was the eighth-largest producer of gold in the world.

“As demand for gold hits an all-time high, more and more cash-strapped countries, mostly developing ones, are opening their doors to gold-mining interests,” said a recent report published by London-based Panos Institute.

The report, The Lure of Gold: How Golden is the Future?, highlights the need for tight economic and environmental measures if developing countries are to benefit from gold mining. It warns that “without new safeguards, the luster of gold may well turn out to be as illusory for developing countries as the fabled El Dorado.”

El Dorado, touted to be the Lost City of Gold, was attributed to various stories learned from the Maya after the conquest of Mexico. The Maya spoke of their lost cities that spoke of an ancient and wealthy culture that did make extensive use of found gold, as well as jade and other precious things.

The Philippines Star, one of the country’s top national papers, has compiled a list of landslides that happened in the province. Let’s travel back in time.

Mount Diwata, colloquially nicknamed as Diwalwal, is reportedly rich in gold and copper ores and mines. It is spread across three municipalities: Monkayo, Davao de Oro and Cateel and Boston, both in Davao Oriental. Several landslides happened in the area.

On February 15, 2001, eight people, mostly children, lost their lives when a landslide struck a residential area at the gold-rush site. On October 26, 2005, 32 died and five missing when a landslide struck a mining site. On July 9, 2007, another landslide happened leaving 5 people dead. On November 20, 2008, six bodies were pulled “under tons of mud after days of rain loosened soil and buried several houses.”

Barangay Kingking in Pantukan also figured in several landslides: March 19, 2001 (three miners died and two missing), May 16, 2003 (four people buried alive), and April 22, 2011 (14 people buried, including 8 miners).

On September 6, 2008, 24 people died with 32 others and two missing when two landslides struck barangay Masara, the current place of the tragedy.

Indeed, in those gold-rush areas, landslides are imminent!

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