CCTVs installed in gold-rich town in fight vs illegal mining activities

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/11 January)—Surveillance cameras have been installed in the gold-rich town of T’boli in South Cotabato in an intensified crackdown against all forms of illegal activities that threaten the environment in the area, an official said on Wednesday.

Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environment Management Office chief, said the provincial government is cracking the whip not just on illegal small-scale mining operations but also against illegitimate ball mill processing plants.

“The stoppage order on ball mills operating without permits will be implemented by January 15,” he told MindaNews.

Flaviano said the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed at the only road leading outside the gold-rush villages of Kematu and Desawo to monitor vehicles transporting ores towards the ball mills, which are mostly concentrated in the poblacion area.

It was installed on the heels of the recent disaster in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, where a landslide killed 36 people in a small-scale mining site years ago considered a high-risk area by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Two pairs of CCTVs, or four cameras in all that can take wide and close angle shots, were set up, he added.

These will monitor the ores transported out from Kematu and Desawo especially during nighttime, Flaviano said, adding the footages will help them determine if these are legally or illegally sourced.

In November, the provincial government shut down an estimated 300 gold tunnels for lack of permits.

Aside from illegal small-scale tunnel operations, the destructive banlas or sluice mining activities are also prevalent in the area.

Banlas mining employs the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore, and then pan them with mercury.

Flaviano said an estimated 200 illegal tunnel operators have been trying to seek a permit from the provincial government.

The same number of ball mill operators has scrambled up at the PEMO office here since last week to get clearances for their operations, he added.

Aside from ensuring that small-scale miners are complying with environmental requisites, the crackdown came in force to increase revenue collections from the mining industry players.

Gov. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. earlier noted the poor collections from the small-scale mining industry players in T’boli town.

For the ball mill operators alone, Pingoy said that if all of them are paying, the province could have earned P1.2 million from them last year.

Taxes and fees imposed by the provincial government on such kind of business reach P6,000, the governor said, adding that in 2010, only about 15 ball mill operators have paid their dues.

Pingoy said they are targeting to collect from P 5 to P10 million from the small-scale mining activities and ball mill operators this year.

He noted this would be a big help to the provincial government’s coffers with the expected P20-million cut on the internal revenue allotment this year due to the conversion of 16 municipalities into cities. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)