Gold, At What Cost?

“We should live here on earth as though we were intending to stay for good.” – 2000: A Better World for All

            In 2000, robberies of pawnshops in Naga City cropped up like a booming industry. The crooks might have been disinterested now in robbing banks with the depreciation of peso that is why they shifted to robbing pawnshops. Knowingly, they must have been apprised that the glittering gold never devaluates in the market. It is quite impressive to have spotted that lucrative activity at par with kidnapping, bank robbery, and drug pushing.

            The gold per ounce has reached $1,400, an all-time high. 

            What is it in gold that people desire it so much?

            Although I acknowledge its indispensability in the field of sciences, I still wonder how it has dominated our world. People simply become fond of it that they want to accumulate more and more until there is more. Even the crude oil is labeled as “black gold” for its significance in the present living is defined by its universal use and demand. Its exploitation as a resource becomes imperative as long as the host permits so. Hence people from other land come to marked places in search of that precious, special gem.

            Historically myriad conflicts erupted due to the insatiable want of possession of gold. But the modern trend of globalization restrains any possibility of that since it makes legal the intrusion of foreign people to exploit the resources of the local people. On the account, our people become poor while living in the midst of abundance made available for them by the ordered creation. It is the strangers from our land that benefit from the blessings above and under us. They take the first bite of the cake while our people just watch waiting for the leftover. Commonly what they give appears like a gift out of their generosity not a settlement of their duty. And sadly our people accept gladly the leftover from the strangers without realizing that they are merely receiving what rightfully belongs to them. It is a plain poetic injustice to our people. And yet on their side are our own people who are supposed and tasked to push for our welfare and rights against these imposing strangers, but they turn their back against their own people since they share a little piece of the cake.

            This is the typical picture of the mining industry in our country. With the 1995 Mining Act, the industry has been revived from its moribund state. Coupled with our government’s thrust of globalization vis-à-vis market liberation, the industry is bound to glory days again.

            But not too fast, says the environmentalists and other groups who oppose mining in the Philippines. The Marcooper tragedy is the ultimate foundation of all struggles against mining in the country. Our people cannot be heedless to the cries and calls of the victims for the repeal of the Mining Act after the disastrous spillage of mine tailings to Boac down to the Calancan Bay. But it seems that the government can. Aargh!

            The fight against mining is a universal struggle profiling the yawning gap between the rich and the poor. Most of the gold resources around the world are used for jewelry by the affluent and wealthy people. Therefore it caters to the demand of the few and not to the human need. How many mountains and vast of land must we reduce to barrenness just to satisfy the created fashion whims of the few? There is always, I believe, a point of time to realize our damnation, but shall we wait for a messiah to that for us?

            Our people’s rise to go against mining is a politically correct decision that we have to support. And in Bicol, let us join the struggle to stop the Rapu-Rapu mining project in Albay, Philippines.

(Click here for a book on mining issues in Rapu-Rapu, Albay. It is entitled, Under-Mining the Power of Commuities: The Politics of Mining and Local Community in the Philippines)

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