PANTUKAN, Compostella Valley (MindaNews/24 April) — At least 30 families living near the landslide site in the small-scale gold mining area in Barangay Kingking have been given 48 hours starting Monday to relocate, as initial assessment shows another landslide could happen anytime, Local Governments Secretary Jessie Robredo told a press conference here Sunday afternoon.
Robredo said those who refuse will be forcibly evicted from the danger zone.
The order came after the initial assessment conducted by government agencies and mining firms that a landslide may happen anytime due to cracks found just above the landslide site at Side B, Sitio Panganason in Barangay Kingking that left five persons dead and 17 others still missing.
But Robredo, who arrived Sunday afternoon, said the 30-day suspension of small-scale mining operations which Governor Arturo Uy ordered has been reconsidered given the economic impact on the miners but “the local government will implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the miners, which prohibits them from direct habitation in the gold rush site,” he told reporters after a closed-door meeting with local government officials and concerned
government agencies at the town hall.
Uy had earlier ordered the suspension of small-scale mining operations to allow concerned agencies to assess the condition of the landslide site and neighboring small-scale gold-mining sites.
Ford Hipolito, Apex Mining risk manager, told reporters they have discovered a 70-meter long crack, about a foot wide just above the landslide site.
Hipolito warned that the crack could give away anytime since it is close to the pathway of the residents.
“Little rains and tremors could trigger another landslide anytime,” said Hipolito, whose firm had earlier conducted a risk assessment before sending their workers to assist in the rescue operations.
An aerial photo taken after the landslide showed several houses directly below the crack.
The soil could fall anytime due to the crack because it is aggravated by movements in the area, he added.
The landslide site is about 500 meters long from the ridgeline and about 50 meters wide.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said large-scale mining companies are not covered by the order.
“The large-scale mining companies are not covered because they are not obtrusive because for now. They are at exploration stage unlike these small scale miners who are digging their tunnels everywhere,” Paje stressed.
Among the large mining firms that have recently acquired Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) are National Development Corporation (Nadecor) and the Natural Mineral Resources Incorporated (NMRI).
Mayor Celso Sarenas admitted that forcibly relocating the miners has been very difficult, adding they have been asking them to leave the declared hazard zones but the miners refused to leave.
“They have been always telling us that they are ready to die in disaster rather than die in hunger,” Sarenas said,” adding if it wasn’t Good Friday, “maybe more could have died.”
Some 3,000 persons are occupying the gold-rush site in Sitio Panganason, he said.
Miners usually set up their bunkhouses near the tunnels and ball mills.
Governor Uy admitted that chances of getting survivors are getting slim given the volume of mud and debris.
He added that the provincial and local governments will shoulder the funeral expenses.
In May 2009, 27 miners were killed after a small chunk of a mountain in Sitio Magapispis, Barangay Boringot here, fell into three bunkhouses teeming with small-scale miners. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)