Closure of small-scale mining in T’boli urged

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/01 April)—The Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) of South Cotabato has recommended a stoppage order for small-scale mining activities in T’boli town following the death of three miners who were buried alive when tunnels collapsed, an official said on Friday.

Ramon Ponce de Leon, PEMO chief, said the recommendation to temporarily stop tunnel mining operations in T’boli was already submitted to Gov. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. for approval.

“Should he approve it, we will conduct an assessment if tunnel mining would still be allowed to operate,” Ponce de Leon said.

The Provincial Mining Regulatory Board would make the assessment together with the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau, he added.

Heavy sporadic rainfall in T’boli town in the past few days caused the tunnels to cave in on Wednesday, resulting to the fatalities as well as injuries to two others, officials said

Ponce de Leon said landslides triggered by the rainfalls were monitored in at least three mountains in T’boli town.

Flashfloods due to the heavy rains also swept the neighboring towns of Surallah and Banga.

Ponce de Leon said they are still assessing the damage caused by the landslides and flashfloods.

Nelida Peirera, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office chief, said that residents in landslide-prone areas in Barangay Kematu were evacuated forcefully to safer grounds to avert further tragedy.

Kematu is a minahang bayan (people’s mining) site where small-scale mining operations have been active for over a decade now.

The latest death inside the tunnels involving mine workers was not the first. Last year, two brothers were killed inside the tunnel when they reportedly ran out of oxygen.

The minahang bayan site is within the mines development site of Canadian-backed Tribal Mining Corp, and has been a subject of dispute between the company and small-scale mining operators.

Gold and silver deposits are said to abound in the village. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)