Fuentes orders police and military to arrest illegal miners

Lourdes Jumilla , secretary of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), said Fuentes issued the order in the wake of the continuing illegal mining activities in the gold-rich village.

“These people have been violating the stoppage order issued by the provincial government since last year and (have been) continually destroying the mountains of Barangay Kematu,” Jumilla said.

She said the governor fears that the illegal activities might aggravate the significant cracks found in the area several months ago and cause deadly landslides.

Elements of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion earlier confirmed the renewed sluice mining activities in Sitio B’langas in Kematu after they arrested three minors who were working on a sluice mining site.

Jumilla said no adult miners were arrested because they managed to escape and left the children on their own.

The arrested minors were turned over to the municipal social welfare and development office of T’boli, she said.

But Jumilla said the soldiers, who were assigned to secure the area, confiscated various mining equipment and other materials used in gold extraction.

Fuentes earlier warned that the provincial government will not hesitate to file charges against anyone who would destroy the mountains of T’boli.

“Those violating the law should not be rewarded. We have been so lenient before but many of them continued to abuse our policies,” she said.

Fuentes said a police detachment would be set up at the mountains of sitio B’langas to prevent any illegal activity.

At least 14 people had been charged with theft of minerals by the provincial government in connection with the illegal mining activities in the area.

If convicted, the suspects could get a jail term of at least six years.

Fuentes ordered the total stoppage of the sluice mining activities in Sitio Blangas last year after the illegal activity almost cut a mountain in the area into half.

The provincial government initially found out that the sluice mining operators employed at least 30 children for their illegal activity.  

Sluice mining is a method where miners move the soil for easier extraction of the gold particles. Miners then pour large volumes of water into the soil until it washes down to small box-type diggings on the river which they call the sluice boxes.

These sluice boxes have screens that are used to separate the fine gold particles from the ore. The miners then gather the accumulated gold particles, place them in a container and pan them using mercury.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)