KABANKALAN CITY - The Provincial Environment Management Office and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau are alarmed by small scale mining operations at the boundary of Sipalay City and Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, using hazardous and toxic chemicals for gold extraction, Eriberto Madalag, PEMO Regulatory Services Division officer-in-charge, said yesterday.
Worse, the toxic waste is being dumped into a creek, which connects to the Bacuyangan River of Hinobaan, Madalag said at a meeting here of members of the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center.
The limited technical skills of small-scale miners in using hazardous chemicals, not only endangers their health, but also affects the environment, Madalag said.
The MGB has already issued cease-and-desist orders to the small-scale miners to stop their illegal operations, but the orders have been ignored, he said.
Madalag estimates that about 100 families are engaged in small scale mining in several hinterland sitios of Brgy. Nabulao, Sipalay City, and within the boundary of Hinobaan, where the Philex Gold Mining Corp. is also presently conducting its exploration activities.
If it is not stopped, Madalag said he fears that it will cause another Compostela Valley incident, where more than 30 were killed, and about 100 believed buried alive and who remain missing, because of the landslides.
Small-scale miners have been digging holes and tunnels, in search of gold and copper, for several years now.
In one hole, Madalag said, the miners manage to process 10 to 20 grams of gold in just one operation. A gram of gold is bought in the area at P1,700.
Madalag said somebody may be financing the small-scale mining operations, and he has received reports of the presence of an armed group in the area.
During the JPSCC meeting, Madalag sought the help of state security agencies to enforce the cease-and-desist order of the MGB.
Lt. Col. Rodrigo Sosmena, 47th Infantry Battalion commander, said there should be a viable alternative livelihood for those small-scale miners, so they will stop the illegal mining activities.
An urgent call is now being made by some members of the House of Representatives for a review of the 20-year-old small-scale mining law, to ensure a balance in addressing environmental, cultural and social, and legal issues surrounding the mining industry.
Madalag and Rose Norbe of the Department of Agrarian Reform were among the resource speakers of the JPSCC meeting at the Farmers Center here, that was presided over by Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander. * GPB