Police deployed in T?boli town to stop banlas mining

“We will file neglect of duty against the policemen if banlas operation will still persist in the area. What’s the use of the presence of the policemen there if the illegal activity continues?” South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes said.

Lourdes Jumilla, secretariat head of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, said the policemen will be deployed in sitio B’langas, Barangay Kematu, a hinterland village where some mountains have been destroyed by years of sluice mining operations mostly done by T’boli miners.

“The nine-member police team should not worry because they have a detachment there (to keep them comfortable),” Jumilla said.

Sluice mining is deemed a destructive method where miners spray the mountain with water so its soil would loosen for easier extraction of the ore.

Miners would then remove 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.

Fuentes said they wrote the Environmental Management Bureau to seek assistance in assessing the damage wrought by sluice mining operations and for its rehabilitation. But the bureau, she added, responded that rehabilitation efforts should be done by the provincial government.

A geologist earlier estimated that about four million metric tons of gold ore deposits remain untapped in T’boli town despite the rush of people there in the latter part of the 1980s.

Aside from sluice method, several operators have built tunnels but these are mostly illegal.

The provincial government early last year issued a stoppage order on sluice mining in T’boli town to prevent further damage to the area’s environment.

Last year, the provincial government evacuated at least 200 families living in sitio B’langas for fear they would be buried if the mountains cave in. Some of them, however, returned to the village, claiming gold hunting is their only means to support their families.

Former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, who once visited the area, warned of a looming catastrophe worse than the 2004 disaster in Quezon and Aurora provinces should banlas mining operations continue.

Flashfloods due to destroyed mountains brought by illegal logging killed some 1,000 people in the two Luzon provinces in late 2004.

“Your mountains (in T’boli) are worse than what I saw in those two provinces before the tragedy. If rains will continuously hit the area for five straight days, the mountains would collapse and wash out your town and other low lying areas,”  Soliman told the residents then. (MindaNews)