Authorities alarmed over illegal hydraulic mining in CDO’s mountains

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/9 February) – In the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong, the rampant illegal hydraulic mining along the Iponan River in this city and neighboring town of Opol in Misamis Oriental has become the centerpiece of a major environmental concern in this city.

During a meeting of the Misamis Oriental Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, officials identified major financiers that are fueling the illicit multi-million industry in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro.

Officials also bared the presence of Korean nationals who are operating three to five barges in the Iponan River ostensibly for sand and gravel quarrying.

“We suspect these Korean nationals are actually engaged in gold mining,” Teddy Sabugaa, operations chief of the Misamis Oriental Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.

Conrado Sescon, Misamis Oriental Environment and Natural Resources officer, identified six of the alleged financiers of the illegal hydraulic mining operations in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro and Opol town, which have cause massive siltation in the Iponan River, a major tributary to resource-rich Macajalar Bay.

These are Alberto Mendoza, Allan Paredes, Ray Tolentino, Odoy Rosales, Ondo Gaopan and Pedro Legaspi, all residents of Cagayan de Oro and Opol town.

“These are financiers who supply the expensive pumps and water hoses to the miners in Iponan River,” Sescon said.

Sescon also identified around 20 individuals who are engaged in gold panning along the river.

Hydraulic mining is one of the most destructive ways of mining gold along rivers. It uses high-pressure jets to dislodge rocks and soil to remove gold-bearing gravel.

The high-pressure water takes down huge chunks of rocks and soil from the side of the mountains, making siltation a problem. Miners would direct the loose soil and gravel to sluices or channels and remover the gold-bearing ores.

“The turbidity along Iponan River is enough to destroy the resources in Macajalar Bay,” Sescon said.

He said the siltation has affected the lives of farmers and fishermen who could no longer farm in Opol and fish in Macajalar Bay.

Gold mining along Iponan River has been a major environmental concern in Cagayan de Oro since the 1990s.

Several campaigns have been directed against the illegal miners but reluctance among local politicians who view the miners as potential voters have allowed it to thrive.

“It is very hard for these politicians, especially those in the villages, since many of these miners are their constituents and voters,” Sescon said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)