INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE IN GOLD MINING

Mining in the Philippines is said to be about ten centuries old. Written history says it had long preceded the colonial periods of the Philippines.

Upon the arrival in of Spanish colonialists in the 16th century it is said that the conquistadores saw, worn in abundance, as normal attire, by people whom they thought to be primitive – gold hewn ornaments. They did not know that as early as the 10th century, these supposedly primitive people had been participating in an Asian trade in which gold figured as both a commodity and a medium of exchange.

It is said that Chinese and Japanese traders before the advent of the Spanish conquest knew of the mines of Mankayan and were said to even have (at one time before the discovery of the mines by the Spanish conquest) a direct hand in the operation of extracting and processing of ore.

A Spanish expedition in 1623, (after a series of earlier expeditions failed) records some description of the the Antamok gold fields but this visit was said to have been met by fierce opposition from the Igorots.

One detailed observation of an early missionary who sought the mining communities of Itogon by tediously ascending the Agno river tells of deep tunneling methods being employed in Antamok and even during those early times, the igorot miners had a well in-depth knowledge of exploration, digging with the crudest (but most appropriate) of tools and having institutionalized systems of ownership and inheritance.

Various indigenous terminologies in the different steps of mineral processing may be found in the dialects of the Igorot miners. Social institutions are also instilled in the cultural fabric of the indigenous mining community and most of these rites of passage are still in good use up to these current times.

Various conservation systems are also observed most especially the recirculation of waste water and recovery of mine waste for reprocessing. Other social structures like sharing, keeping profits and investing are also deeply instilled into the culture of the indigenous miner.