Finally, MGB serves cease and desist order to small-scale miners in Libona

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 December) — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -10 today served a cease and desist order issued earlier against illegal mining operators in Gango, Libona, Bukidnon, a bureau official told MindaNews.

Engr. Daniel Belderol, officer in charge of the MGB mine management division said via telephone that MGB personnel accompanied by officials from the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources served the order to the Municipal Government of Libona and the mining associations in the area.

MGB regional director Alfredo Relampagos issued the order on August 3 this year.

Relampagos also warned about the common tailings pond in the area. In a letter to BENRO chief Samuel Cadavos dated Aug. 12, he said they found spillage of effluents containing mercury and cyanide and sediments from the pond resulting in a “very high total suspended solids.”

The report prompted a visit by provincial officials in the area led by Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., who reportedly ordered a stop to the operations.

Belderol said the order was served only today because they have no police power.

He added that they gave a copy to the provincial government last month so it can be officially served. But Belderol clarified they “advanced” a copy to the barangay government in Gango.

BENRO officials did not take MindaNews’ calls for comments as of Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, the Bukidnon provincial board passed a resolution supporting the MGB’s cease and desist order.

Another proposed resolution urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to declare a portion of the 2,000-hectare E. Pelaez Ranch in Sitio Manlahuyan, Gango as a “minahan ng bayan”. The area covers 58 hectares inside the ranch’s Forest Land Graze Management Agreement which expires in 2020.

In October, the provincial government had urged small-scale miners in the area to comply with the requirements for the declaration of about 58 hectares there as “minahan ng bayan,” Cadavos said in October.

Two groups of operators, the Bukidnon Small Scale Miners Association (BUSSMA) and the Bukidnon Integrated Small Miners Association (BISMA), are running the mine site. They have a membership of at least 2,000 but none of them has secured a small-scale mining permit from the provincial government, Cadavos said.
He said Zubiri Jr. called on the two groups to merge before processing the requirements.

But Cadavos said the FLGMA granted to the Pelaez family is the biggest obstacle to the planned declaration of part of the area as minahan ng bayan.

He quoted Zubiri as saying they will convince the Pelaezes to waive their FLGMA rights over the 58-hectare land but that no waiver had been obtained.

Cadavos said the declaration will help them solve the “complicated problem” caused by the mining activities. He warned the provincial board in September that the mining operations in the area have become a complex “social, technical, environmental and political” problem.

He said his repeated orders to close the mine site had remained unheeded, and operators had armed themselves to resist government attempts to stop their activities.

He said that during their last visit on August 23, they found ball mills, rod mills and a carbon in-pulp plant used in processing and recovering gold, which they used aside from the common tailings pond constructed by the province.

Earlier, Cadavos said the small-scale gold miners operating illegally and using mercury and cyanide were financed by foreigners. But he told MindaNews this week that the Chinese nationals were only financiers of the WHK Manufacturing and Trading Corporation, who signed a memorandum of agreement with Libona mayor Leonardo Genesis Calingasan, to clean the tailings pond.

Cadavos noted, however, that WHK has gone into gold processing and built structures for mineral processing. He said they advised the firm to stop its mining activities.

WHK manager Alvin Shi denied they were in the area for gold. (Walter I. Balane /MindaNews)