Saturday, February 09, 2008
A Blast at the Mines
Last December my family and I were in Baguio (again for the nth time). It has become a family tradition to visit the summer capital at that time of the year. Just so we don't get tired of going to the place, I make it a point to go to a new spot during each visit. This time it was the Balatoc Mines. I first heard about it in the virtualtourist website. VT Bikepacker featured it in his travel guide and I had read it in 2006 before the trip that year. finally, we got there this time. Just as I have read, The Balatoc Mines is an old gold mining company whose founders were americans. It was established almost at the same time Baguio was built - in the early 1900's. For several years they operated in the area until the time when the market for gold went bad. Their earnings were lower than their expenses then so that management decided to fold up the business. However, in the recent past - about 3 years or so - with the help of the Department of Tourism, the mines had been converted into the country's first and only mine ride.
A visitor is allowed to become a miner for a day. First, one has to wear the right paraphernalia. We were made to use boots and hard hats. Then, we had to go for a little orientation so that we know what to expect. the ride was with the use of a real miner's train. A guide went with us to explain what was happening. We were led into a miner's cave where the ore was found. this place had already been abandoned for some reason so that noone else was there but us. It was a little scary to find out that houses stood above the place where we were at. I mean, you know, what if during a blast, the earth got so soft that it crumbled! I'd hate to think the worst. I and my family were there in that cave. But that was remote. We learned that Balatoc Mines placed in some fillings enough to replace that which they harvested. They were safety conscious as well as environment-friendly.
At one point during the ride, a real blasting was done. Of course we went for cover. How deafening it had been. The smoke it emitted was still there 15 minutes after the explosion which I should say is not friendly to the nose nor the lungs at all.
After that, we were off to a real mine. There, the miners were processing the ore, cleaning it until there was not too much earth in it. Ore really does go through fire to yield its gold. There was a gate which shut close a cave. This, we later found out, is where the real mining is being done. The miners, all men, stayed inside that hole for 8 straight hours. Noone could enter nor leave unless it was time to do so. The miners, being all men, wore nothing but their undergarments down there. This is done because it is easier to track whether anyone brought home something that they shouldn't have. everyone was accounted for and when someone is missing, there'd be a team to look for that person in the mine. It really wasn't a life I could imagine having but these guys brave it day in and day out to make a living. I'd hate to be in their shoes. The tour ended in a visit to the small museum. Overall, the Balatoc mine is a ride to experience.