GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 April) – The South Cotabato provincial board will launch a legislative inquiry this week regarding the continuing “highly-destructive” illegal small-scale mining activities in at least two municipalities in the province.
Board member Ernesto Catedral, chair of the board’s environment committee, said Monday the inquiry will mainly focus on determining the extent of the continuing illegal “banlas” or sluice mining activities in the municipalities of Tampakan and T’boli that already devastated several mountains in the area.
Sluice mining, a method which employs the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore, was blamed by local authorities as behind the landslide in Tampakan town earlier this month that left three local miners dead.
“We need to set stringent policies that would effectively stop these illegal mining activities before they further destroy our remaining mountains and cause more deaths,” he said.
Catedral said they decided to launch the inquiry following an aerial survey conducted by the provincial government last April 16 on various illegal small-scale mining sites in T’boli town.
South Cotabato Vice Gov. Elmo Tolosa, who joined the aerial survey, earlier said they found several mountains near the gold rush village of Kematu in T’boli town already on the brink of devastation due to the ongoing sluice mining activities.
The local government has set another aerial survey for the illegal mining sites in Tampakan town after the earlier inspection was cancelled due to poor visibility.
Catedral said they will summon several local small-scale mining operators and financiers, municipal officials as well as officials and representatives of mining regulatory bodies to attend the inquiry.
“All involved parties will be called in so we can have a better picture of the situation and be better guided on the possible actions that we may pursue,” he said.
The official said they are hoping to come up with some resolutions that would detail specific recommendations which the provincial governor may undertake to help address the problem.
“We’ll try to come up with both short and long-term solutions to the problem,” Catedral said.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. expressed support Monday to the planned legislative inquiry as he vowed a full crackdown on the illegal mining activities in the province.
“We need to stop them (illegal mining activities) at all cost. The recent tragedies in T’boli, Tampakan and in Compostela Valley remind us that we have to take tougher actions now with these illegal activities,” he said.
Five persons had been confirmed dead while 17 others were still missing after a landslide struck a small-scale gold mining site in Side B, Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking in Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province early on Good Friday.
The provincial government of South Cotabato had suspended all small-scale mining activities in T’boli town after four miners were buried alive in a landslide last Mach 30 in several mine tunnels Barangay Kematu.
Two days later, four more mining workers were also killed in Barangay Pula Bato in Tampakan town following a landslide within a confirmed sluice mining site in the village. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)