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Large-scale mining in Runruno: A development that breeds injustice PDF Print E-mail
Runruno. The name seems to have derived from the word “runo”, which is a kind of wild grass with similarity to cogon grass that thrives well even on hilly areas. The grass is largely covering the area of Barangay Darubba or “karunuan” as the villagers called the place.

Runruno was one of the worst hit villages in Nueva Viscaya when typhoon “Paeng” whipped Northern Luzon late October 2006. It was ravaged by flashfloods as the river swelled and buried about 90 percent of houses in the sub-village of Centro under three feet of mountain soil. For months, the village was cut off from the rest of the town due to several landslides and washed off portions of the road. It could only be reached through a five-kilometer hike. The road is the main exit route for farmers transporting their citrus produce from Malabing Valley in Kasibu town.
King Solomon’s treasure

Runruno is one of the twelve villages (barangay) of Quezon town in Nueva Vizcaya, approximately 200 kilometers north of Manila. Runruno is considered as one of the oldest villages in Quezon. According to folklore, the place because of its rich deposits of high-value minerals like gold and silver was chosen as repository of King Solomon’s treasure.

During the early 19th century, Ilocanos were seen settling in the more fertile lands in Quezon town. Other indigenous tribes specifically the Ifugaos, Ibalois, Kalanguya and other tribes from the Mountain Province followed in the early 50's through a government resettlement program. This wave of settlers occupied the area and later spread out to other villages.
In the early 1950’s, the indigenous Kalanguya first set off to the village of Darubba. The tribe which was headed by Bugtong Binay-an, was said to be the founder of the village now called as Runruno. The elders said that his house stood as the first primary school in the area. Apo Bugtong had worked for the establishment of a separate community from Barangay Darubba.
A government’s resettlement program attracted more indigenous people who after finding gold along the rivers of Quezon, spread the word to their fellowmen. An onrush of immigration then followed from Ifugao and other provinces up to the 70s and eventually settled in the area. The Bugkalots (Ilongots) followed but when other tribes came like the Kankanaey, Ibalois and groups of Ifugao, the Bugkalot opted to leave the place and settled to another place.

Rice, corn, banana, coffee, root crops and citrus are among the main source of livelihood of villagers in Runruno. With its lush and abundant flora and fauna, variety of trees like narra, apitong, binwang and alumit are abundant in the forest. Hunting of wild animals like boars and deer are also part of the way of life of the villagers who are mostly Ifugao. With the influx of the Igorots from the Cordillera, the gold panning has been introduced in Runruno and became an alternative source of income of the villagers. Panning is known as traditional type of small-scale mining.

On January 15, 1965, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Nueva Vizcaya approved a resolution creating Barangay Runruno as a new barangay of Quezon town. Barangay Runruno has 12 sitios namely: Dumaliguia, Marangad, Dipilipig, Centro, Kinalabasa, Compound, Tayab, Malilibeg, Cabinuangan, Busat, Atan 1 and Atan 2.

Like Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town, Runruno is attracting mining investors, with its rich deposits of gold, silver, copper and zinc. The communities, however, say the mining explorations are driving them out of their lands. Today, the beauty and natural life of Runruno is being threatened by the mining explorations in the area.

How it all started

Early 1960s, a certain Bucaycay Guillao belonging to the Kankanaey tribe from Benguet arrived at Runruno and discovered through panning that there were gold deposits in the area. He applied for a mining claim and it was granted by the Provincial Capitol of Nueva Vizcaya. A certain Jose Calavera, in 1967, a relative of Bucaycay Guillao, made the latter sign a document transferring mining claim to Calavera. Later he sold the mining claim to Don Jose Calderon, a rich Filipino businessman.
From 1967 to 1969, Don Jose Calderon maintained a small-scale mining in the area through tunneling. He applied for a mining operation permit for 20 years but the operation was cancelled for unknown reason. During 1969 to 1972 Fil-Am, a local company and New Consolidated (Australasia) Property Limited started preliminary mining exploration activities in the area. A total of 51 holes were drilled at 50 meters. Adits* were developed and 800 meters of tunnels were opened.
In 1974, Consolidated Goldfish of Australia had optioned (read: acquired) the property from Fil-Am for one year and drilled 9 widely spaced diamond drill holes. Four years later, in 1978, Fil-Am commissioned a feasibility study from Japanese-based companies Kurimoto Ironworks and Nissho Iwal and Company Limited of Japan to be based on the available diamond hole data. The study found that the property was economically viable with estimated resources of approximately 450,000 ounces of gold mineable by block-carving method.
Another engineering firm, Dowa Engineering Co. LTD of Tokyo, Japan completed a feasibility study in 1980 and calculated a reserve of 13,000,400 tones at 1.41 g/t gold. Molybdenum was never tested that time because of poor core recovery within the mineralized zone. Molybdenum is a rare silver metal.

In the same year, another mining company, Golden Arrow Mining took out an option over the property and carried out another drilling until they relinquished the option in 1988 due to financial and internal management problems. It was in 1995, the Base Metal Mineral Resources signed an exclusive agreement with Fil-Am Company allowing them to explore, develop and operate the property.

In 1996, ACA Howe International Ltd was engaged to calculate a resource estimate for the property. In their report, ACA Howe estimated an inferred resource containing 607,000 ounces of gold and that the resource might be understated by up to 30% due to poor core recovery.
In 2000, Greenwater Mining Corporation (GMC), a subsidiary of Vancouver-based Placer Dome, the mining company who owned 40% of the Marcopper Mining Corporation. Marcopper which operated in Marinduque for more than 30 years has evoked fear about the risks of mine tailings dumped by the company into the Calancan Bay. That fear has turned into anger when in March 1996, more than three million tons of toxic mine tailings spilled into Boac river, killing all aquatic life and destroying the homes and properties of the communities around it. At that time, a badly sealed tunnel in an old mine tailings pit burst open and gorged its toxic contents.
In 2000, GMC applied for an exploration permit covering the area of 12,304 hectares of Runruno. The GMC conducted geochemical and geophysical surveys to drill 11 diamond drill holes. The drill holes confirmed that the structures have gold-molybdenum values. The GMC executed a Deed of Assignment for the part of assignment of exploration permit to FCF Mining Corporation in January 2002. While in February 2005, Metals Exploration Inc. forged an agreement with Runruno property from FCF Mining Corporation, who holds mining exploration permit.

The Metal Exploration Inc., PLC

The Metals Exploration PLC (Metals Ex), a United Kingdom-based gold exploration company with a focus on the Philippines has five exploration projects in the country namely the Masapelid in Surigao, Puray in Eastern Rizal, Baguio EPA in Benguet, Jaclupan (place not mentioned) and Runruno in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya.

In Runruno, the Metals Ex carried out a careful review of all previous works and reports, a basic structural analysis of the deposit, field mapping and samplings, extensive sampling of the small scale miner’s tunnel.

In November 30, 2005, Mr. Steven Smith, Chair of the Metals Ex Board cited that their initial drilling and sampling particularly in Runruno produced “extremely encouraging results”. It was noted in the report that the results of sampling and mapping of the local miner’s tunnels located at Centro Runruno, Malilibeg area and Tayab have confirmed the existence of the high grade (41.4 g/t gold) potential gold mineralization and molybdenum.

With their advance and sophisticated technology, a high-grade material was also determined from the channel samples that were left behind by the local miners. As observed by the residents, the company’s financial situation is more stable and sustainable. The company managed to hire 12 community relations organizers (CROs) and maintains a 253-strong workforce in the mining bunkhouse.

Mining corporations strong-arm tactics

The Runruno villagers are confused. Based on the available documents, the MTL Philippines Mining Corporation was never existed. In the official website of the Metals Ex PLC it is mentioned that Runruno project is one of its five mining projects in the Philippines

The existence of the Runruno Livelihood Foundation (RLF) is also a puzzle to the residents of Runruno. According to the company, the RLF is a women’s organization of Runruno primarily to cater to the economic needs of the barangay through a livelihood program. The RLF is seen by the villagers only as an instrument of the MTL as majority of the villagers have posed a collective and strong objection to the mining company. Leaders and members of Runruno Landowners Association (RULANAS) admitted that some staff of the said foundation are wives of the officers of the mining company. Consultations with the people were hardly done or not at all The RLF is being used by the mining company as a front for all its activities. Based on the documents, RLF has filed an application for water rights at the National Water Regulatory Board in Quezon City.

No to large-scale mining

The people of Runruno have risen from a deep slumber. They have realized that their lands and their lives are at stake due to the mining explorations for more than four decades. The two consecutive flash floods in Runruno that happened last year became the turning point of the residents to be vigilant and realized that they must do something about their problem. They knew that the flashfloods that almost killed them and wiped out the whole barangay was due to the mining activities. Seven were killed, livestock and houses were washed away due to landslides, agricultural lands situated along the river were destroyed, and there were a lot of landslides.
The corporate mining operations led the residents of Runruno to stand and act as one to oppose the manipulative tactics of the mining companies. The Runruno Landowners’ Association (RULANAS) was formed. It is an organization of residents, landowners and claimants of barangay Runruno who are up in arms to stop the mining operations in the area. The organization is active in conducting education and information drive on the effects of mining, and series of fora and gatherings prove to be important as the mining operations in the area breed animosity and disunity among the people.

The RULANAS has conducted series of activities to protest the presence of the MTC. On February 3, 2007, members of RULANAS went to the Nueva Viscaya Provincial Capitol to bring their appeal to Governor Loren Cuaresma for her immediate action on the entry of reverse circulation (RC) drilling of the company. They have also reported the application of water rights by the Runruno Livelihood Foundation at the NWRB.

On February 12, 2007, they filed a petition at the office of Provincial Governor against the pronouncement and statements made by Atty. Federico Andaya, the provincial assessor of Nueva Vizcaya and some Community Environment and Natural resources Officers (CENRO) during a public meeting organized by the company on January 30, 2007. Andaya said that the landowners should stop in paying for their tax declaration because the lands they occupied are considered within a Forest Zone. He also insisted that he will not approve any payment of tax declaration anymore.

A public forum and photo exhibit on mining was conducted at the residence of Josie Guillao, the RULANAS Secretary on February 21. More than 500 people have attended including the local government unit officials like Mayor and Vice Mayor of Quezon, Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlalawigan and some barangay Kagawad. It was also supported and attended by representatives of Alliance of Community Development Advocates (ACDA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Diocese Social Action Center (DSAC) and from Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (JPICC) of the AMRSP.

It was followed with another mining forum in Sitio Cabinuangan on March 10, 2007. Quezon Mayor Segundino Supnet and other LGU officials attended the forum. On March 11, 2007, a mining forum in Sitio Dumaliguia and Dipilipig was also sponsored by RULANAS.

Last March, protesters who were trying to prevent the start of the mine operation by blocking the entry of equipment to the mine site were fired at by company security guards. The company deployed at least 100 armed security guards, set up check points along the roads leading into the community of Runruno, imposed a blockade which prevented food and other basic necessities from going into the community. The corporate mining operations in Runruno pose a threat to leave the villagers landless.

The mining company now employs various tactics to derail the vigilant and collective action of the members of RULANAS. On March 20, 2007, the MTL Philippines filed a petition for Injunction and Prohibition with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Injunction with Damage at Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bayombong, Nueva Viscaya. The court granted the petition. The struggle of Runruno communities against the large-scale mining continues.

Sources:
1. Exploration Permit Issued by DENR, Sept. 26, 2005.
2. Community profile, Barangay Runruno
3. Metal Exploration, http: www.metalsexploration.com/projects_RunrunoGold.htm
4. Primer on Mining, Episcopal Church in the Philippines, Oct 2006
5. Interview with Ms. Josie Guillao, Secretary of RULANAS, Venancio Matidio, Chair of RULANAS, Guillao, Kathleen, Board of Director of RULANAS and Guillao, Toledo, considered as one of the elders in Runruno
 
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