High-risk mapping in T’boli mining site gains ground

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/02 March)—Establishing the geographic coordinates of high-risk areas in the gold-rich town of T’boli in South Cotabato has commenced in a bid to make small-scale mining operations there safe, it was learned Friday.

Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environment and Management Office (PEMO) chief, said the provincial government and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau have joined hands in coming up with a geographic coordinate system in the mountains of T’boli.

“Tunnels that would fall within the high-risk geographic coordinate will not be allowed to operate,” he said.

Flaviano noted the move was meant to avert tragedy in the small-scale mining site, and is in line with the drive against illegal mining activities in the town.

It is also part of the provincial government’s disaster-risk reduction management initiatives in compliance to Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, he said.

There were an estimated 300 tunnels operated by small-scale miners in Barangay Kematu, which the provincial government has been trying to regulate to avoid disaster as well as to increase revenues from the industry.

This year, the provincial government was expecting to generate P30 million from the small-scale mining industry players in the area, Gov. Athur Y. Pingoy Jr. said.

Pingoy said they are confident of reaching the target as the provincial government has been “enforcing its political will” to flush out illegal small-scale mining activities in the area.

The intensified drive against illegal mining activities increased the province’s collection to P9.2 million last year from P6.6 million in 2010.

Last year, Pingoy issued crackdown orders against small-scale tunnel miners and gold processors in T’boli town operating without permits, which he noted had denied the provincial government the rightful income from these sectors.

The crackdown was pursuant to provincial Ordinance No. 7, Series of 2003, known as “An ordinance levying taxes, fees, charges and other impositions on small-scale mining, mineral processing operations, and transporting of mineral ores within the province of South Cotabato and providing the rules and regulations thereof.”

In October, the provincial government shut down the small-scale operators’ tunnels in the gold-rich municipality for lack of permits.

Several others were later on allowed to resume operation after getting clearances from the provincial government.

This after they have been given notices to comply with the requirements.

Flaviano said the campaign against illegal mining and ball mill operators will be the key to reach the P30 million mining industry target for 2012. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)