Flores said tunnel mining employed for years by small-scale operators have not exhausted the bulk of the gold deposits.
“Only big companies can fully extract these deposits and not small scale operators because for one, it needs huge financial requirements,” he said.
Tribal Mining Corp. (TMC) is presently exploring the town to identify the viable strategic locations of the deposits.
Dibu Tuan, TMC board member, said the firm wants to explore the area to help ease the poverty incidence of tribal residents within the affected area.
“We also hope the venture will improve the overall economic situation of the town,” he said.
Last year, TMC, backed by Canadian firm Sur American Gold Corp., applied for expansion of exploration site in T’boli.
The targeted exploration area lies near the site where TMC has also been exploring for several years now, under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI, covering 84.98 hectares in Barangay Kematu.
Barangay Kematu in T’boli town has been a gold rush site since the early 1980s, attracting small-scale miners from the Davao region and elsewhere in Mindanao in a bid for better lives.
Flores warned, however, that because these small-scale miners have been using primitive or unsafe mining methods, disaster may not be far-fetched from hitting the town still reeling in poverty despite its rich mineral deposits that also include silver.
Recently, the provincial government banned small-scale tunnel mining activities in Kematu but later lifted it after reportedly putting in place stricter regulations.
But Flores chided the order on small miners saying that it affected thousands of families in the town. He said the situation “is a social problem and that if you stop these people from their activities, they should be provided with alternative livelihood”.
Two methods are being employed in the town—tunnel and sluice mining. The latter is considered a destructive mining method where miners spray with water the mountain so that its soil would loosen for easier extraction of the gold particles. Miners would then move the soil and pour large volumes of water to it until it washes down small to box-type diggings on the ground or the river which they call the sluice boxes. These sluice boxes have screens that are used to separate the fine gold particles from the soil and small stones. The miners would then gather the accumulated gold particles, place them in a container and pan them using mercury.
A portion of a mountain in Kematu had been destroyed allegedly by the activities of small-scale miners.
Despite the stoppage order, particularly on banlas or sluice mining activities since February last year, several government officials have admitted that such method of mining remains unabated especially at night or when security forces are not watching the area. (MindaNews)