MANKAYAN, Benguet (PNA) - The more than 100 small-scale gold miners of this town and adjacent areas have started to have additional income out of mushroom production as an alternative livelihood.
According to Omar Evangelista, one of the legal counsels of Benguet Corporation, said their assistance to the group of miners is just one of the social-oriented projects of the corporation as it pursues its mining operations in the area.
Some two years ago, the corporation has to provide the initial capital and technology transfer to the miners pursuant to its objective of further helping the community with alternative livelihood.
It was learned from some of the mushroom growers that the monthly harvest of both pearl or buttonhead, and vulvariella species of mushroom reaches 400 kilograms.
In public markets like in Baguio City, some 45 kilometers south of this gold-rich town, each kilogram of mushroom is retailed between P35 to P50.
In previous extension work of government nutritionists, mushroom provides fiber, potassium, and protein, and is without any fat, which is good diet for those with heart ailments and who want to maintain body weight.
Mushroom is of great demand as it is used in various menus.
Mushroom production offers the miners a steady income because it is not seasonal as long as the mushroom heaps are well protected inside greenhouses and other makeshift shades.
The newly-developed industry is helpful to the miners who cannot pursue their main jobs during typhoons.
Records show that the government, through local officials, had to suspend mining operations during inclement weather because of the hazards of mining, especially those going underground.
In July, 2008, nine small-scale miners were drowned and killed in abandoned mining shafts in Itogon, Benguet, during a storm.
Before that tragedy, Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan used multi-media channels to warn that he has suspended all mining operations in the area due to an approaching typhoon.
Fifteen of the local miners based in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, who were either not informed of the warning or simply threw their cautions away entered their usual variant levels of mining tunnels.
Not long after they entered the mining shafts when disaster struck as ground water inundated most of the tunnels.
The more than 48 hours rescue operations involving various government agencies, including the Philippine Navy based in Poro, San Fernando City in La Union, saved six of the trapped miners.