Gold surge stokes tribal tension in Philippines

TAMPAKAN – As gold shines through the coronavirus pandemic, touching new highs as a precious metal hedge to the dollar, the stakes for Southeast Asia’s largest undeveloped copper and gold minefield have never been higher.

Nestled 1,300 meters above sea level, huge gold and copper deposits lie untapped in the mountains surrounding the sleepy Philippine town of Tampakan on the southern island of Mindanao.

Over three decades since the deep, rich deposits were first discovered, controversy still burns over who has the right to mine and profit from the precious metals, pitting central government agencies and their corporate concessionaires against local tribal communities.

Over the years, the center-versus-periphery struggle has often devolved into violence and even death, and the prospect for more bloody turmoil is on the rise in line with the surging price of gold, now at well over US$2,000 per ounce on global markets.