South Cot orders illegal gold processing stopped

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 December) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has issued a stoppage order against unlicensed or unregistered ore processors and ball mills in T’boli town as part of its continuing crackdown against illegal small-scale gold mining and processing operations in the area.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said he issued the stoppage order 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.

He said the stoppage order, which will take effect on January 15, 2012, is pursuant to provincial ordinance number 7, series of 2003, which sets the “taxes, fees, charges and other impositions on small scale mining, mineral processing operations and transporting of mineral ore within the province of South Cotabato.”

“This ordinance strictly prohibits the extraction and processing of ores without proper permits and payment of necessary fees to the provincial government,” the governor said in a press statement from the South Cotabato Information Office.

Pingoy said they initially issued notices to ore processors and ball mill operators to comply with the local government’s regulations or face closure by January 15.

Engr. Siegfred Flaviano, acting Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) chief, said the issuance of the stoppage order was part of the local government’s efforts to properly regulate all small-scale mining and related activities within the province.

He said the move will also provide additional income to the local government from mining and processing fees.

Based on the provincial government’s monitoring, around 300 ball mills and 200 ore processing plants are presently operating in T’boli town.

The mineral ores being processed by the ball mills and ore processors come from the thriving small-scale mining activities in the gold rush villages of Kematu and Desawo.

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.

Presently, he cited that the local government only generates P169,000 from mining-related activities in the area based on the delivery receipts issued by PEMO.

Last month, South Cotabato officials closed down around 300 illegal small-scale mine tunnels in Barangays Kematu and Desawo in T’boli but later allowed 50 of them to reopen after their operators secured proper permits and complied with the regulations set by the local government. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)