DIDIPIO VALLEY, KASIBU, Nueva Viscaya - Until the tragic accident of a dump truck which fell into a deep ravine in Kayapa town that killed five last March 17, the word “Luyot” became a byword for the ongoing Gold rush discovered in this obscured sitio in the central Sierra Madre mountain ranges known hub of fierce head hunters in the early days.
Local radio stations have reported the gruesome accident as transporting a hot cargo of “Luyot” unknown to most listeners that even the newscaster did not understand its meaning. They merely quoted the Police blotter report transmitted by the local police in Kayapa.
Luyot is an Ifugao word for mine tailings. These tailings which appears to be ordinary soil rake as much as 50 to 80 pesos per kilo depending on the quality of the mining waste. Natives said buyers, mostly Koreans; procure these seemingly insignificant debris by the tons. A dump truck filled of the said mining waste would cost at least P50,000.
The ill fated truck carried tons of “Luyot” that skidded in the steep mountain side of the infant Kasibu-Benguet road- a newly developed access road to Baguio city which is only four hours travel from the Maharlika highway in Aritao town.
The ill fated truck, five people died here.. mostly from Cabarroguis, Qurino. Photo by Victor Martin
The cargo was traced here; a small valley in the central Sierra Madre which is itself isolated by mountains from its mother town of Kasibu. It takes about four hours of straight drive from the capital of Bayombong traversing the provinces of Isabela and Quirino only to reenter the forested jurisdiction of Nueva Vizcaya.
“Residents gather Luyot as much as they want, it requires no mining permit but an equivalent tribute to the Provincial Government when transported outside,” says Simplicia Annayon; Community Relations Supervisor of the New Zealand-based Oceanagold Mining Company which is dumping the precious mine waste.
She said locals who own “ball mill” in their backyard extracts gold and copper ore leftovers from the previous processing by the mining company. “There are still leftover ore not seen by the naked eye which is usually 50 percent of the original extraction,” Annanayon said. The locals sell the extracted high grade gold at an average 1,500 per gram.
Locals in the mining Village of Didipio are now up to date with the latest events and trends in the urban world having installed and subscribed their own satellite cable television. Villagers attributed their improved lifestyle with the entry of mining operations of New Zealand based Oceanagold mining company which established road, electricity and water system in the obscured village once dreaded for its fierce head-hunting natives in the past.
The process is less taxing than gold panning in Mount Diwalwal in the south specially when the “Magluluyots” smuggle the raw materials through sinister means. Last year Police Chief Insp. Maciste Serrano, Kasibu chief of police said the 60 sacks of "Luyot" were seized in a checkpoint manned by local environment enforcers and his men.
Oceanagold is one of two mining permitees operating in the province and employs 70 percent of the village residents. From the latest census in 2007, Didipio's population has doubled to date.