Lourdes Jumilla, head of the secretariat of the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board, said South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes ordered over the weekend the stoppage of mining activities in Barangay Kematu.
“Police and military personnel were deployed to ensure the evacuation will be smooth,” . Jumilla said, noting that landslides occurred in several areas near the gold mine site due to heavy rains since the onset of the New Year.
Jumilla said a huge drain tunnel of Tribal Mining Corp and another tunnel operated by a cooperative of small-scale mining operators caved in late last week.
“Fortunately, no one was trapped inside the tunnels,” she said.
Tribal Mining, which is being backed by Canadian firm Sur American Gold Corp, obtained several years ago Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI, covering 84.98 hectares of land within Barangay Kematu.
Jumilla said rains worsened the condition of the mountain that has already been destroyed by mining activities. She said other areas in the village where no mining activities were conducted were also hit by landslides.
Haide Lacdo-o, acting provincial social welfare chief, said the residents will be housed in the village’s public school.
Jumilla said they are evacuating the residents to avoid a disaster and would dismantle shanties along the danger zones to prevent the return of miners’ families.
“The ground movement in the gold rush site is terrible. The area has become very dangerous,” she added.
In another part of the village, a house sitting near the foot of the mountain was nearly buried by the landslide, said Jumilla.
Early last week, about 100 tunnels operated by small-scale miners were reported to have shut down operations fearing the collapse of the channels.
Displaced tunnel workers, including women and children, have resorted to panning activities along the town’s riverbanks with the closure of the tunnels.
At the riverbanks, Jumilla said, residents were waiting for loose gravel containing gold particles.
Because of the rains, the tunnels are now virtually submerged in water, Jumilla said, adding operators would incur tens of thousands of pesos to siphon off the waters from the tunnel once the weather improves.
Lacdo-o said they have dispatched warnings to the municipalities to relocate residents in landslide and flood-prone areas due to the rains.
The issuance of the warning emanated from the advisory coming from the Office of Civil Defense, which warned of more rains due to the inter-tropical convergence zone, she added.
Lacdo-o said they are closely watching the water level at Lake Maughan, also in T’boli town, to avoid a repeat of the September 6, 1995 disaster where an estimated 30 million cubic meters flowed out destructively from the lake, after a portion of the lake caved in due to activities blamed on treasure hunters.
It was the worst disaster to hit Sotuh Cotabato in decades, leaving 53 people dead, 14 of whom were not recovered. Damage to propery and infrastructure was pegged at P212 million. (MindaNews)