Golden village … Barangay Dumagmang in Labo, CamNorte–which has grown from a gold rush area – had electricity for the first time on December 12. – Photo courtesy of JONAS CABILES SOLTES/Bicol Mail
By JONAS CABILES SOLTES
LABO, CamNorte: The gold rush in mountainous Barangay Dumagmang in this town has attracted people from neighboring towns and provinces who would risk their limbs and lives for nuggets of gold.
Last week, electricity was the Johnny-come-lately. And giving respite to diesel-powered electric generators–which have roared over the misty village for years–was the talk on the muddy streets.
Dumagmang is connected by a 14km dirt road to the Maharlika Highway but is about 35km from the town proper of Labo or 50km from Daet, capital town of this province.
Romeo Carilla, 36, who was hauling heavy sacks of ores from an uphill pit as linemen from Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (Canoreco) were doing last-minute checking of power lines in the village below said electricity would unburden small-scale miners like him.
The cost of paying monthly electric bills, Carilla said, was way lower than the P6,000 he had to spend monthly for buying diesel to fuel a generator.
In Dumagmang, villagers would start running generators at dusk or at about 6 p.m. Lights went off at 10pm.
To watch daytime television programs, they would run generators anytime -- at an additional expense.
Most of the 1, 600 villagers are miners attracted by the promise of finding gold by themselves, without the meddling of financiers, who in neighboring Paracale town lord over small-scale mining operations.
Despite the gold rush, mining in the village had not been lucrative, said Elizabeth Alvarez, 51, whose husband and three sons were all miners.
Her family had relied on chipping ores from the hillsides, which had been safer than digging a pit.
Many of the residents had no other reliable source of income aside from mining.
They would just earn at most P10,000 a month. (Gold traders who would come to the village usually buy a gram of gold for P900.)
The rising pump price of diesel cut drastically the monthly income of families who own electric generators.
Buying diesel competed with having food and other basic needs.
With the situation, villagers welcomed electricity like a long-lost friend when it first flowed through the power lines than now serve Dumagmang and the neighboring village of Exciban, which had been without electricity since the 1960s.
The project was part of the rural electrification program of the national government, which has been implemented through the National Electrification Administration, Canoreco, and the provincial government.
The villagers, however, still hope that the arrival of electricity would not be followed by the coming of a large-scale mining company, which could take away the mining lands on which they have subsisted for so many years.
Unfortunately for them, Dumagmang sits on the mineral production sharing agreement area of Mount Labo Exploration and Development Corporation, the former El Dore Mining Corporation. – Bicol Mail