After the crackdown on illegal miners, SouthCot now eyes illegal gold processors

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/20 Nov) — After cracking down on illegal small-scale mining activities in the gold-rush town of T’boli in South Cotabato, the provincial government’s next targets are the gold processors in the area.

Only 15 of 200 gold processors in the province are operating with permits, South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy said, adding, the province could have earned at least P1.2 million if only all operators of  ball mills are legally operating.

Annual taxes and fees imposed by the provincial government on the ball mill operators or small-scale gold processors are estimated at P6,000 each.

Pingoy said the province could have earned P3 million this year from the ball mill operators, and small-scale miners but the actual collections from these two sectors did not even reach P200,000 because many of them are operating illegally.

Pingoy said they are targeting from P5 million to P10 million earnings from the small-scale mining activities and ball mill operators next year.

He said this would be a big help to the provincial government’s coffers,  particularly with the expected P20 million IRA cut next year due to the conversion of municipalities into cities.

Last month, South Cotabato ordered the closure of 300 gold tunnels for operating illegally and for unsafe mining practices.

But this week, the provincial government allowed several small-scale tunnel operators to resume their activities after they complied with environmental and work safety requirements.

The closure of the 21-hectare small-scale mining area came also because of  overlapping land claim of the T’boli Minahang Bayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TMBMPC) and the Maguan clan in the gold-rich mountain.

In 1994, then Gov. Hilario de Pedro III issued Executive Order 12 declaring 21 hectares as “minahang bayan” or people’s mining site in favor of the TMBMPC.

In recent years, the Maguan clan claimed the area under their ancestral domain and demanded that mining operations there by the TMBMPC members should have their consent.

The 21 hectare minesite is within the tenement of Tribal Mining Corp’s 85-hectare under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI granted in 1997. The agreement has a lifespan of 25 years.

Tribal Mining has partnered with Canadian firm Cadan Resources Corp. for the commercial development of  its T’boli gold-silver project, which is just awaiting final approval from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

The Court of Appeals earlier ruled that the conflict over rights between the mining firm and the small-scale miners involving the disputed area shall be resolved by a Regional Panel of Arbitrators, which is a quasi-judicial body annexed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)