CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Oct) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Northern Mindanao revoked today all Environment Clearance Certificates (ECCS) issued to all companies engaged in sand and gravel operations in Iponan River.
The regional environment office also set up a task force to implement the order on the 20 affected companies whose operations have turned Iponan River from a Class A waterway into a heavily-silted and endangered stream of water.
The crackdown came after an environmental non-government organization, the Sulog-One Sendong is Enough, presented evidence that the companies were engaged in mining for gold instead of quarrying sand or dredging the Iponan River.
DENR Regional Director Ruth Tawantawan said the ECCs issued to the companies were only for sand and gravel quarrying, not for mining gold.
“Apparently the companies have engaged in some technical malversation because their permits were for quarrying not for mining,” Tawantawan said during the meeting with Sulog leaders this morning.
Engr. Daniel Belderol, of the DENR’s Mine Management Division, said upon their inspection, they found the barges operated by the companies were disguised for quarrying but were actually scooping the river bottom for gold.
“The barges have chains of extractors that scoop the river bottom. These have a mesh of filtering nets to separate the gold from the soil,” he said.
A DENR presentation showed that for every gram of gold extracted from the Iponan River, at least a ton of soil or dirt have to be extracted from the river bed.
Add it to the several hydraulic mining also operating in the area, the DENR said massive siltation has turned the farmlands along the Iponan River into a “wasteland.”
The local government of Cagayan de Oro said permits have been issued to only two firms engaged in sand and gravel quarrying in Iponan River.
However, the local government has consistently refused requests from the local media and environmentalists for copies of the permits.
Opposition Councilor Edgar Cabanlas identified seven mining firms issued such special permits – Dinamet Mining Corporation, Yellow Stone Development Corporation, SNS Metal Trading Corp., White Pearl Asia Corporation, Perfect World Mining Corporation, Javez Hinterland Resources and Cagayan de Oro Finest Metals. Two individuals identified as Maria Victor Lagbas and Virgilio Agus were also issued the same permit allegedly by Mayor Vicente Emano. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)