BENGUET | Inside the Balatoc Mines in Itogon | Lakad Pilipinas

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet

Boom. The force of an exploding dynamite inside a dark and claustrophobic old gold mine isn’t really what you wanted to experience during a tour. But there it was, its strong shockwave still reverberating through our whole being as we removed our hands from our ear and checked our limbs if they were still complete.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
A SCULPTURE DEDICATED TO THE MINERS OF BALATOC

Our day started mundanely enough. From our suite at the Azalea Residences Baguio, we went down to the restaurant for the requisite buffet breakfast—Baguio longganisa, check—before boarding a van to the nearby town of Itogon, still in the province of Benguet.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
OLD NAME PLATES AT THE BALATOC MUSEUM

We knew we’d be visiting an operational gold mine, but we really weren’t sure what to expect. The scenic ride across Loakan Road, past Camp John Hay, took just about thirty minutes and we were soon alighting and heading to a wooden shack where Balatoc Mines held their tour orientation.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Museum
HOW THEY COMMUNICATE, DECADES AGO

The space itself also doubles as a museum of sorts, showcasing old mining tools, vintage apparatuses they use to operate the mine, rock ores taken from the quarry, and yes, a gold bar.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Miner
A MINER RESTING AT VEGAS MINE

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Miner
CIGARETTE BREAK INSIDE THE MINES

The province of Benguet has always been associated with gold mining. In fact, Benguet Corporation is the oldest mining company in the Philippines. They do own Balatoc Mines, but it was only in 1997 when they started to open it for guided tours.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Chapa
OUR VERY OWN CHAPA

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Hard Hat
PROTECTIVE GEAR FOR THE GUIDED TOUR

Before going in to the mines, we were asked to don protective hard hats and rubber boots. We were also given chapas, a sort of tin coin with number stamped on it. The figures represent our visitor number, but back in the day, these are used to track miners going in and out of the tunnel. They put their chapas in a box when they get into the mines, and claim it back when they emerge. If there are chapas left on the box, it means someone was left inside.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
INTO THE VEGAS MINE

And so we walked to our destination, Vegas Mine. This mine is now unused even if there are still gold ores present within its walls. There’s just not enough of them, our guide told us, as we gingerly entered the mine’s mouth and darkness swallowed us.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
HARD ROCK WALLS AND CEILING

The ground was uneven, made of clay and crushed rocks, and the walls alternate from concrete, to pure carved bedrock, to ones netted and supported with timber. Along the middle of the pathway is a rail, made both for persons going into the mines and ores going out of it.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
FURTHER IN, SOME PARTS OF THE TUNNEL ARE SUPPORTED BY HEAVY WOODEN BEAMS

Us, we walked. It was hot and very humid. Our only consolation was that the tunnel was lit. It’s quite different for a working mine though, where only the miner’s headlamps were the source of illumination. Now that would really give anyone a bad case of claustrophobia.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
DRILLING IN, PREPARING TO DYNAMITE THE MINE

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet
TRYING IT OUT FOR OURSELVES

Farther down, we encountered a miner using an insanely long drill into the hard rock walls. Apparently, he’s putting up spaces where he would slid dynamites in. Alrighty, quite a comforting thing. He showed us where the dynamites lay, but before sliding it in, he allowed us to experience the drill. And drill we did.

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Dynamite
YES, THAT’S A REAL DYNAMITE

Balatoc Mines Itogon Benguet Dynamite
FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!

After that rattling experience, it was time to bomb the mine. During real mining operations, they let out an average of twenty dynamites per explosion. But since we weren’t really that hardcore, he’ll just light one for us. We really would’ve been grateful if he didn’t light anything at all.

But we’re seasoned travelers, yeah? And it’s all for the experience. Fire in the hole!!!

Balatoc Mines Tour
Address: Balatoc Mines, Itogon, Benguet
Contact Number: (074) 447-2617 | (0921) 299-0169
Email: boa8z@yahoo.com
Facebook: Click Here
Entrance Fee: PHP250.00
Open Hours: 8:00AM to 3:00PM Everyday
GPS Coordinates Map: 16.360532, 120.659972
► BOOK FOR DISCOUNTED HOTELS IN BAGUIO CITY


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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2 comments:

  1. Hi! Your Baguio posts are really helpful. I would just like to ask if there's an entrance fee for the tour, and how to get there from Baguio city proper? Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Updated the post to include the entrance fee. As for getting there, you may take a cab or ride a Plaza-Balatoc-Acupan jeepney, terminal is located at the foot of Session Road :)

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