GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 Dec) — Environment personnel in South Cotabato province seized early this week some 75 sacks of gold ore that were allegedly extracted illegally from the mineral-rich mountains of T’boli town.
Engr. Siegfred Flaviano, acting chief of the South Cotabato Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), said Thursday that the gold ore sacks were intercepted by their personnel at a checkpoint in the gold rush village of Kematu in T’boli early Tuesday evening.
He said the sacks of ore, found aboard a delivery truck, were reportedly about to be delivered to a local processing plant when intercepted by PEMO personnel at around 6 p.m.
“The truck driver and his companions failed to present any ore transport permit and the required delivery receipts,” Flaviano said.
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He said PEMO personnel manning the checkpoint immediately confiscated the cargo which was moved on Wednesday to the South Cotabato provincial capitol compound in Koronadal City for proper documentation and inventory.
Flaviano said they were still verifying the identity of the owners of the seized cargo, the second delivery that they stopped in the last two weeks.
Earlier this month, he said PEMO personnel also held some10 sacks of gold ore at the same checkpoint.
“This only shows that the illegal small-scale mining operations in the area are continuing and with that, we will even be intensifying our monitoring activities,” he said.
Last month, the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of South Cotabato ordered the closure of around 300 small-scale mine tunnels in Barangays Kematu and Desawo in T’boli due to the failure of their owners and operators to secure proper permits and licenses from the local government.
But South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr., who chairs the PMRB, later allowed the reopening of 50 mine tunnels after their operators secured proper permits and complied with the local mining regulations.
Following the crackdown on the illegal mine tunnels, Pingoy issued another stoppage order targeting the unlicensed or unregistered ore processors and ball mills in the area.
The governor said he issued the stoppage order, which will take effect on January 15, 2012, following reports that a number of gold ore processors and ball mills in T’boli town have been operating without permits from the local government.
Based on the provincial government’s monitoring, around 300 ball mills and 200 ore processing plants are presently operating in T’boli town.
Pingoy said the provincial government may earn an additional P18 million annually if the existing ore processors and ball mill plants in the area will properly pay their fees and taxes. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)