The three siblings, who are now in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, were apprehended in Sitio B’langas in Kematu by patrolling soldiers two weeks ago.
Fuentes said elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion deployed in the area reported that the mining operators and financiers were again employing children for their illegal activities.
The three were reportedly working with three other children when the soldiers spotted them. But the three others managed to run away when the soldiers rounded up the group.
The governor ordered the total stoppage of the sluice mining activities in Sitio B’langas 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.
Fuentes lamented that the provincial government had spent at least P2 million to relocate and provide alternative livelihood to residents who were depending on sluice mining but most of them eventually returned to the area and resumed their illegal activities.
Aside from employing children, she said the illegal miners reportedly operate during evenings.
The governor said they found out recently that the miners already destroyed another nearby mountain because of their continuing illegal activities.
“The thing is, they flush out an entire mountain and retain just about 10 percent of the soil for gold extraction. All the rest of the wasted soil goes to the river along with their mercury wastages,” she said.
Fuentes said the sluice mining activity was traced as the cause of the heavy siltation along the Kematu and Banga rivers.
Owing to this, the governor said the provincial government and the municipal government of T’boli decided to establish a permanent Philippine National Police and Army detachment in sitio B’langas to secure the site round-the-clock.
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.