Biz leader urges stop to illegal small-scale mining in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/26 August) — A business leader cum local official in Caraga Region is batting for the full stoppage of illegal small-scale mining operations in Surigao del Norte, and to eventually legalize them to avoid further disasters caused by such operations.

Chamber of Mines for Caraga Region Inc. (CMCRI ) president Dulmar M. Raagas, who is also vice mayor of Malimono town in Surigao del Norte, said he will propose a municipal ordinance next month for this purpose.

Small-scale miners are operating illegally because there is the law banning them up to this day, Raagas said referring to Executive Order 007 issued in August last year by Gov. Sol F. Matugas.

“I don’t want to stop them from what they are doing because that is their livelihood and they make a living out of that for so many years. What I want is they will pay (their) taxes and they must operate legally,” Raagas said.

But he clarified that he was speaking as the vice mayor of his town as the chamber cannot possibly meddle in the issue of small-scale mining.

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Raagas was elected president of CMCRI prior to his election as vice mayor. He has not been receiving any compensation from his post in the chamber of mines.

He pointed to the unregulated small-scale mining operations as one of the culprits in environmental disasters like the Pantukan tragedy in Compostela Valley a few months ago.

In Malimono, he said, small-scale miners have dug tunnels that crisscross each other, and that this is also true in other towns like San Francisco (formerly Anao-aon), Placer and some barangays and sitios in Surigao City.

In his town, he said, these miners are not paying taxes to the government and are not regulated. Raagas wants them regulated.

He said the tragedy in Compostela Valley that killed at least a dozen persons might happen soon in Malimono.

In February this year, at the height of heavy downpour, three miners were buried alive inside a tunnel in Barangay Masgad, Malimono.

Raagas could not say the exact number of miners operating in the gold rush area but said there are so many of them. “In fact some miners are from Davao, Agusan provinces, Diwalwal, who join the fray,” he said.

He added gold miners would sell their yield in a “black market” in Surigao City which is considered illegal because these “stores” are not registered with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Meanwhile, Nagkahiusang Gagmayng Minero (Nagami) chairperson Ignacio Arevalo said they are calling on Matugas to lift EO 007 so they can continue to make a living.

The group, in a protest activity held outside Hotel Tavern while the 1st Caraga Mining Symposium was held last Saturday, called for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995.

Nagami said they are against the entry of six large-scale mining companies in the province including Corplex Mineral Resources Inc. which is allegedly conducting exploration activities in Pinaypayan and Brazil in Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City and the towns of San Francisco and Malimono.

“That’s why we the small miners strongly oppose the entry of CMR Inc. and other large-scale mining firms in order to protect the environment. We also want to protect our farms and our children’s future,” the group said in a statement written in the vernacular.

They added that they were deprived of their livelihood when alleged armed men in uniform destroyed their tunnels, equipment and houses. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)