KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/16 Oct) — At least 64 minors have been confirmed to be working in small-scale mining projects in the gold rush town of T’boli, South Cotabato, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) officials said.
Ruby Carrasco, DoLE South Cotabato field office head, reported that the child laborers either worked as abanteros (those first to go inside tunnels), packers or haulers in small-scale mining projects in Barangay Kematu.
She noted that some of the minors worked in banlas or sluice mining operations, a method deemed illegal by the provincial government due to its destructive effect on the environment.
“The child laborers have been identified and profiled for the assistance that will be extended to them, including their parents,” Carrasco said.
The DoLE regional office has been conducting consultation and advocacy campaigns to stop the child labor menace in T’boli town.
Officials of Barangay Kematu have committed to pass an ordinance against child labor hopefully by next month, she said.
Joel Gonzales, DoLE-12 assistant regional director, said livelihood and educational assistance would be extended to the identified child laborers and their parents.
Ma. Gloria Tango, regional Labor department chief, earlier said that child labor, especially in small scale mining operations, has become a “vicious cycle” in T’boli, a gold rush town since the 1980s.
“The root cause of child labor in our jurisdiction is poverty. The parents of the children working in the mines site have insufficient income (to raise the family),” she said.
“This vicious cycle of child labor must be broken so they’ll have a better future,” she added.
Tango noted that children as young as 10 years old have been found working at the mine site in T’boli as ore porters.
She said that if the issue on child labor can’t be solved, it will be a recurring problem with the next generation of children also becoming child laborers.
With 70% of its population composed of indigenous peoples, T’boli town remains mired in poverty despite its rich mineral resources mainly gold and silver.
The town hosts the T’boli gold-silver project of Canadian firm Cadan Resources Corp, involving 84.20 hectares under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI.
The MPSA was granted in November 1997 to local mining firm Tribal Mining Corp.
The MPSA area, however, straddles the “minahang bayan” or small-scale mining area, covering 21 hectares, that was declared over a decade ago by the provincial government of South Cotabato.
Despite the disputed area, Cadan Resources announced last week that it will start commercial production “soon,” after complying with government requirements. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)