Troops deployed to small-scale mining area in T’boli

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/08 April) — Police and Army personnel are now stationed at the small-scale mining site in Barangay Kematu in T’boli, South Cotabato following the stoppage order issued early this week by the provincial government.

South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy, Jr. said the provincial government approved the recommendation of the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board to temporarily halt small-scale mining activities in the village.

The board made the recommendation  after three mine workers were buried alive last week when tunnels caved following a heavy downpour in the area.

Chief Insp. Marvin Duadua said the deployment of two teams of policemen and soldiers in the  “minahang bayan” (people’s mining site) would be to prevent small-scale miners from  continuing with their activities.

“They will man the mining site round-the-clock until the stoppage order is lifted,” Duadua said.

Pingoy said small-scale tunnel operators would be allowed to operate anew if they comply with the requirements, which include safety measures to prevent tunnel cave-ins.

Ramon Ponce de Leon, Provincial Environment and Management Office chief, said the PMRB along with the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau would conduct an assessment in the small-scale mining area.

The stoppage order will lifted only after the tunnels are deemed safe for the mine workers, to avoid a repeat of the recent tragedy, Ponce de Leon said.

He said that tunnel operators opposed the stoppage order since the weather in the mining site has improved.

Last week’s tragedy at the minesite was not the first. Last year, two brothers were killed inside a tunnel when they reportedly ran out of oxygen.

Small-scale mining operations have been active for over a decade now in the village.

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.

Following the landslides last week in the area, the provincial government forcefully evacuated residents to safer grounds. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)