Making a Living Out of Granite Mining

Granite, the light-colored plutonic rocks found mostly in mountain belts and continental shield areas, is now a popular material in construction of concrete houses and as ornament to buildings. In the mountainous, almost remote village in Southern Camarines Sur (496 kilometers south of Manila), it is a source of livelihood for its residents.

BY EL INTERINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 15, May 18-24, 2008

Granite, the light-colored plutonic rocks found mostly in mountain belts and continental shield areas, is a popular material in construction of concrete houses and as ornament to buildings. In the mountainous area in Barangay (village) Bongalon, Sagñay (town), Camarines Sur (496 kilometers south of Manila), it is a source of livelihood for its residents.

Passing through the improved provincial road via the adjoining municipalities of Sagñay, Camarines Sur and Tiwi, Albay, granite slabs can be found in stacks for sale. Obviously displayed along the street side, one could easily choose the quality of stones that they prefer.

Granite, also called gabbro, is an igneous rock consisting of coarse grains of quartz, potassium feldspar and sodium feldspar, which give translucent colors when polished.

“The price of granite slabs is distinguished according to the size of the stones,” said Randy Orgaya, 27, one of the traders and miners of the stone.

“The big ones cost from P1,300 to P1,500 ($30.37 to $35.05, based on an exchange rate of P42.80 per US dollar) per cubic meter while the smaller ones are sold for P800 ($18.69),” he said.

He said the quality of the granite is almost similar to the marbles of Romblon (province) when they are ground and polished. The only difference is that it is easier to be mined because it is softer. “The use of the granite is not only for flooring and wall decorations. Some of the buyers order big pieces to be used in making stone furniture such as tables, chairs and kitchen countertops.”

Not a new business

Granite mining is not new in the village. It began in 1999 when the improvement of the provincial toll way was started. Miners said that the rehabilitation of the road facilitates in the swift transportation of granite.

A miner said that trucks go to their place to fetch the chipped granite at least three times a week. “The rehabilitation of the provincial road is great help (in transporting) the stones.”

Transporting the stones, however, is not easy. The vehicles to be used must secure permits from concerned agencies. Fortunately, they already have contacts that have permits.

“Trucks that come here have a permit to travel so they almost have no problem in shipping the stones, especially at checkpoints. We also take orders from those interested persons, usually passersby, but it is their responsibility to transport the stones,” Orgaya said.

Hand mining

Massive mining can be found in the place called Kagbalogo, about 70 meters away from the main road. People of different ages work together in quarrying granite using only hand tools.

The miners have built tents there to serve as temporary shelter where they would eat and rest.

The adults are responsible for digging up or scraping the soil until they find the layers abundant in granite. They then take the layers and chip them with steel iron into several pieces of various thickness. Often, they produce chunks about one inch thick while the length and width usually depend on their cut from the ground.

After the stones are chipped into different sizes, they are ready for transport to the roadside where the trucks would wait for shipment.

Women and children in mining

Men are not only the ones who work in mining granite. Women and even children also have participation in preparing the granite for transport. Kids work despite their very young age, about nine years old on the average, as transporters of the slabs.

Carmen Bogate, a 32 year-old mother of six, is one of the miners of granite. She said that mining is a very important part in their lives. “It is a big help for my family because my husband’s income as a baker is not enough.”

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