MGB recommends total closure of gold mines in T’boli

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 Nov) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has recommended the total closure to any mining activity of portions of a gold rush area in T’boli town in South Cotabato due to safety concerns.

Engr. Reynaldo Duque, mines safety section chief of MGB-region 12, said the results of the geo-hazard mapping earlier conducted by the agency showed that several portions of the gold mining area in Barangays Kematu and Desawo in T’boli were considered unsafe for further mining activities due to the possible occurrence of landslides and related incidents.

Duque said the areas that they recommended for closure were the elevated or upper portions of the mountains that straddle the two villages.

“Based on our assessment, there are nine mine tunnels in these areas that should be permanently closed down,” he said in a media forum in Koronadal City.

Duque said they also pushed for the banning of excavations and establishment of mine tunnels in the mountains of Sitio El Lubog, which were almost wiped out several years ago by the destructive banlas or sluice mining activities.

Sluice mining, which had been declared as illegal, is a method that employs the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ores.

Geology experts at the MGB-Region 12 had identified Kematu as a high-risk area based on its geo-hazard mapping and assessment.

Jaime Flores, MGB-Region 12’s chief geologist, said their assessment showed that the mining sites in Kematu were deemed as high risk due to the soft and loose soil quality and the steepness of the area.

He said such condition was compounded by the continuing sluice mining activities in the area.

Earlier this year, the provincial government suspended all small-scale mining activities in T’boli town after four miners were buried alive in a landslide in several mine tunnels in Barangay Kematu.

The local government later allowed the resumption of the mining activities after local mining operators agreed to comply with the safety standards set by MGB-12 and the Provincial Environment Management Office.

Isidro Janita, acting chief of the newly-established Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO), said they have not yet received a copy of the MGB-12’s recommendation regarding the situation of the mining areas in the two T’boli villages.

But he vowed to immediately act on the agency’s recommendations and include the matter as among its priorities once they get a copy of the document.

“We will immediately inform the (T’boli) municipal government about it and jointly act on the recommendations. We’ll also conduct orientations and trainings to make the residents and village officials better prepared in case disasters would occur in their areas,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)