Juanito Manzano Jr., MGB regional director said the city government of Cagayan de Oro issued permits for five small-scale mining operations in Barangay Dansolihon inside the critical watershed.
"The MGB-DENR 10 has never issued Mining Permit for large mining operation within the Iponan Watershed," Manzano said in a statement e-mailed to MindaNews.
Illegal mining and wanton destruction of the remaining forests in Lanao provinces have been blamed for the series of flash floods in early January that left three people dead and affected 16,104 families or 83,321 individuals in 47 barangays or more than half of the city's 80 barangays.
"Our forests could no longer hold the rain water. Eventually we will suffer because we are located below this ecosystem," Mayor Constantino Jaraula said.
Jaraula temporarily suspended mining operations in the East Iponan Watershed pending thorough investigation into their contributions to the recent floods.
MGB’s Manzano, however, said the local government is also to be blamed.
He said illegal mining operations owned by local barangay officials have been going on, unhampered in the critical East Iponan watershed for the last seven years, the city government reportedly turning a blind eye in exchange for votes.
Manzano said illegal hydraulic small-scale mining operations, the practice of flushing entire hills for gold, have been going on unabated in the headstream of Iponan River in Barangays Cauyonan and Nangcaon, Limonda, Opol, Barangay Mainit, Iligan City, Barangays Tumpagon, Taglimao, Pigsag-an, Tuburan, Cagayan de Oro City.
"Responsible mining operations could not have not caused erosion and heavy siltation of the Iponan River," he said.
He said the mining operations was temporarily shut down in 1996 but resumed again in 2001. reaching its peak in 2004.
Data from the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed that as of March 2008, there were at least four applications for Exploration Permits (EP) in the city, over 14,256 hectares covering the hinterland barangays of Dansolihon, Taglimao, Tuburan and Pigsag-an.
The pending EPs are for gold, silver, platinum, chromite, base metals and other minerals.
MGB data as of March 31, 2008 also showed that the bureau approved at least three EPs covering a total of 7,123 hectares in the city for iron and other minerals. The MGB approved these EP applications on August 3, 2007.
The permittees are Eagle Crest Mining and Development Corporation, Cypress Mining and Development Corporation and Glendale Mining and Development Corporation.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd district, Cagayan de Oro) said he has filed a resolution in Congress declaring Cagayan de Oro a “mining-free zone."
"Mining operations in the hinterland barangays of Cagayan de Oro have only given us nothing but this tragedy of flash floods and other calamities that could have been prevented," Rodriguez told reporters here Saturday.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma welcomed Rodriguez's move.
“Even as we attend to the immediate needs of displaced families, we must not lose sight of the long term factors that have aggravated the effects of natural calamities. Among these man-made factors are: continued logging operations in the upstream areas of the city; these include the more remote areas of the city and watershed areas in the ARMM and Bukidnon; hydraulic flush mining that have caused the heavy siltation of Iponan river and its tributaries; small scale and large scale mining in other upland areas of the city; lack of solid waste management that has led to clogging of the city's drainage canals; and housing developments that have obstructed the natural flow of water," Ledesma told a press conference Saturday. (MindaNews)