Villages with illegal mining ops ordered to intensify monitoring

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/18 December) — Village officials in two South Cotabato towns were instructed to intensify their monitoring activities in a bid to lick the destructive sluice mining, locally called “banlas,” and other illegal mining operations.

The directive was contained in Executive Order 28 recently issued by South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy, Jr., which also warns village officials that failure to comply carries administrative sanctions for gross negligence or dereliction of duty.

Banlas mining has been going on in barangays Kematu and Desawo in T’boli and Tablu and Pulabato in Tampakan for years now.

EO 28 states that banlas, as a means of mining, is destructive since it is using high-pressure water jets to dislodge or move sediments, which have a devastating effect on the environment including siltation and mercury contamination.

“The issuance of the EO aims to safeguard the environment since the province has limited manpower,” said Siegfred Flaviano, acting chief of the Provincial Environment Management Office.

Flaviano, in a report from the Provincial Information Office, said they have sought the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the local government units to help eliminate banlas and other illegal forms of small-scale mining activities.

Aside from the banlas in Tampakan, illegal copper ore extractions have been recorded in the town which host the large-scale mining project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc.

Last month, an estimated 200 sacks of copper ore were seized by authorities. It was the third time  in two years that a huge volume of copper ore has been apprehended.

To date, no production permit has been issued to any company or individual for the extraction of copper and gold in the town of Tampakan.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, has rights over the mineral resources in Tampakan town but the company’s permit so far is only for exploration.

In T’boli, the provincial government last October shut down 300 small-scale gold mining tunnels for lack of permits.

It was in T’boli where banlas was first discovered several years ago.

Canadian firm Cadan Resources Corp., with the local Tribal Mining Corp., is gearing for gold and silver production in T’boli town. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)