CARMEN COPPER MUSEUM: A glimpse of the past

By: Doris C. Bongcac October 07,2018 - 11:30 PM

HERITAGE CENTER: The facade of Carmen Copper Heritage Center. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

An underground locomotive, used to pull cars in and out of mine tunnels, greets visitors at the old activity center of the Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC) compound in Don Andres Soriano (DAS), Toledo City where a replica of the Sigpit Biga Drain Tunnel now stands at the entrance.

On a wall at the right side hangs an old telephone which miners used to communicate before.

As one walks into the dimly lit tunnel, a statue of the late Don Andres Soriano Sr. is seen sitting in a mine car — the very same one used by ‘Don Andres’ during his visits to the mine which opened in 1953.

After taking a few steps underground, one is led to a diorama which is an exact representation of the mine site’s 1, 676 hectare operational area.

Displayed on shelves and tables on both sides of the tunnel are samples of minerals which CCC, a subsidiary of the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. (ACMDC), extracted from its mines, an ore processing flow sheet, a small ball mill used to simulate the grinding of copper ore, and different products made from copper.

All these memorabilia can be found at the Copper Science Gallery of the CCC Heritage Center which formally opened to the public last September 19.

HERITAGE CENTER: The old tunnel operation of Atlas Mining one of the highlights of Carmen Copper Heritage Center. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Museum curator, Jobers Bersales, said that a visit to the Copper Science Gallery will give people, especially children, a walk through of the process of extracting ore from the earth and how the mineral is processed for use as a raw material in the production of more useful items like coins and decors.

“Children aged 13-years-old and below are prohibited from entering the mines, so what we did is to set up an area that will give them an idea how it operates,” said Bersales.

Aside from the science gallery, the heritage center also has exhibits showing ACMDC’s long history and some outdoor galleries meant to impress on the people the importance of copper in our daily lives, said Bersales.

The CCC Heritage Center, the first copper mining museum in the country and in Southeast Asia, is about a kilometer away from the main gate of the CCC compound.

CCC President and Chief Executive Officer Frederic DyBuncio said that the museum is home to many memories created by ACMDC’s management and employees and their neighboring communities over a span of 65 years since 1953.

“This highlights the importance of responsible mining and what we can do for the surrounding communities,” DyBuncio said in a brief message during the opening of the center.

CCC Corporate Relations and Communications Officer Sofia Picardal explained that the heritage center will especially cater to schoolchildren who want to witness “the colorful journey” of Atlas Mining from its beginnings as a small mine in 1953 to what it is

The museum only opens on a “per request basis” for now, said Picardal.

Heritage Center
It took Bersales six months of research, starting in June 2017, before creating a team to help him collate data and collect old materials from the different CCC departments for display at the museum.

Bersales said that he started his research by pouring over magazines and other printed materials from CCC’s head office in Makati City.

He then began to work on the different exhibitions and galleries early this year.

At the lobby of the CCC Heritage Center is a statue of Don Andres with this quote from the revered ACMDC founder printed on a wall behind it:

“What is being accomplished by you, our engineers and workforce, is a most impressive example of large-scale coordinated effort being carried out successfully. You are all deserving of praise and commendation.”

A door leads to an art gallery displaying pictures of different activities organized by CCC with the different communities, such as tree planting, to help protect the environment.

Another door leads visitors to a history gallery where old vehicles and equipment, used in the CCC mines, are displayed.

History Gallery
Old photos of engineers and open-pit staff who worked for CCC in the 60’s also hang at the history gallery.

While enclosed in a glass shelf is the personal information sheet of a certain Feliciano Cariño, one of ACMDC’s first employees, signed on November 10, 1953 — four months after the mine began its operations.

Beside the document are IDs issued to former employees and an Employment Contract signed by one Celestino Arbon dated August 14, 1954.

The document says that Arbon was to receive P4 for eight hours of work per day as a carpenter for the construction of the Lutopan concentrator.

Beside the pictures is a detailed account of the history of CCC’s operation from the time the mines were opened in 1953 until the present.

Titled “Our Journey Our Heritage Timeline,” the piece narrates how Don Andres merged his pre-war gold mining companies Antamok Goldfields Mines (founded in 1932), Masbate Consolidated Mining Company (1935) and IXL Mining Company (1932) to form ACMDC on July 31, 1953 with an initial capital of P8.3 million.

Two years later in 1955, Atlas Mining opened a 40-bed hospital which offered free medical and dental services to its workers.

At the gallery, are old hospital and dental equipment that were once used at the hospital including an ear, nose, throat suction cabinet used in the late 1950’s and an optical unit used in the 70’s.

Also in 1955, the Lutopan open-pit commenced operations and sent its first copper ore to the Lutopan concentrator for processing on February 23 that year.

Mining which started at 4,000 tons per day increased to 10,000 tons per day by the end of 1955.

On another corner of the gallery is a shelf with a hand glove, rake, and shovel that were the ones used by Atlas Mining nursery employees.

A section for the company’s accounting and auditing department displays old typewriters and calculators that were used in the 50’s.

On another shelf is a 1930’s Tamaya Theodolite surveying instrument used by Atlas Mining in its early days.

Outdoor Display
One of the company’s Komatsu 100-Tonner Haulpak is displayed at the museum’s outdoor gallery beside a mucking machine and mine car.

The mucking machine is a rail-based equipment used to remove ore from the underground mine and load these into mine cars using conveyor belts.

A tank that stored flowcrete liquid for waterproofing used in the development of tunnels in the underground mine and a flotation machine that was acquired in the 1960s to simulate flotation are also at the outdoor gallery.

Also on display is a large SKF sheave which was one of the several grooved wheels in the mine’s head frame or elevator used to carry up to 200 passengers up and down the underground mine or load up to 200 tons of ore or equipment.

Present day
From the 4,000 tons of minerals extracted per day when ACDMC began operations in the 50’s, the company produced 14.24 million tons of milled copper in 2017.

Also, in 2014, Atlas’ revenues grew by 12 percent or a total of P16.2 billion because of higher revenues from copper, gold and nickle; although overall income for the year dropped by P397 million due to several factors including the expiration of the company’s government-issued tax holidays.

On March 2018 copper prices increased by 26 percent from $2.21 to $2.78.

Indeed, the story of ACMDC inspires those that have benefited from the mines as the words of Don Andres Soriano ring in the ear: Atlas Mining is “large-scale coordinated effort being carried out successfully.”

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TAGS: Carmen, Copper, glimpse, museum, past
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