“How would it be like to be a miner for a day?” Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind until we got into the gates of Balatoc Mines center in Itogon, Benguet. While I was able to catch the 7 dwarfs whistle while they work in the mines when I was young. It was not something I wish to grow up but still a very interesting occupation at that. I kept an open mind and a sense of adventure as we do the Balatoc Gold Mines Tour. Who knows, I may dig myself a nice chunk of gold.
We registered at their counter and while we waited for our guide, we checked out the museum. Photographs of the mine under 8 decades of ownership from Benguet Corporation were there. A few antique tools miners used decades ago can also be viewed. There are different types of minerals there and of course a heavy gold bar, the final product of mining.
Our guide Evelyn arrived. This petite lady who has a good command of English asked us to done our booths and helmets for safety. Evelyn has been working in the mines ever since like her family before here. It has been her way of life and she seems to enjoy every moment touring people in one of the richest mineral spots in the country.
When we registered earlier, we were given a coin like metal with alphanumeric characters on it. She said that each miner has that Chapa. It’s their unique ID and they drop it off before entering the work area and get it when they leave. It’s their way off keeping track of people. When there’s one left there for a long time, it means a miner’s still inside missing.
As we went through the train tracks heading to the mines, Evelyn showed us tools, machinery and even the roving toilet car inside the mines. Then we got into the dim tunnel heading deeper to where the mines actually work. I won’t give in all the details of what we were shown or told to avoid spoiling people of the experience.
I could say that we got to see the life of miners at work here. The process of mining, blasting through the rocks, digging through, opening the exhaust engine and taking a break at the pantry. It’s no easy feat being a miner. Dangerous even as they always handle explosives. But they got used through the years.
We got to ride the train this time on our way out and it was really fun but short. Coming from the train tracks we entered the manufacturing center of the mines. The huge number of bags coming from the mines goes here to be processed. It goes through a lot of filtering process from the machines to delicate eyes of panning through the fine grains and purge out the golden dust out the water and debris.
No wonder gold is worth so much because molding a bar takes a lot of time and sweat not only for its minerals. It’s the whole process. It sure was a fun tour and never thought that a life of a miner can be exciting and interesting as well and also affirmed that that kind of life isn’t for me as well. Balatoc Gold Mines Tour us experience the thrill of the underground. I never did get that chunk of could as I was expecting but we do get to keep our own Chapa when we left. At least I get to be a Miner, even for a few hours.
The Balatoc Gold Mines Tour
Open from Monday to Suday
Tour Fee is P250 per pax
Contact: 447.2624, 447.2621, 447.2621
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.