SouthCot deploys team to gold mine site due to bad weather

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/08 January) — The provincial government has deployed a team to the gold-rich village of Kematu in T’boli, South Cotabato to stand guard over small-scale miners as rains continue to pound the area, an official said Tuesday.

Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environment Management Office chief, said the team is particularly watching small-scale mining operations in sloping areas, noting that the provincial government bans mining activities in critical slopes when weather condition is bad.

He said that Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. has issued an executive order that prohibits small-scale mining operations in dangerous slopes during heavy rainfall occurrence.

Intermittent rains have fallen over South Cotabato and neighboring provinces in the last three days.

In this city, the seat of SOCCSKSARGEN Region or Region 12, the weather has been gloomy since Sunday as on-and-off rains fell in the area until near noontime Tuesday.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said that as of 4 a.m. Tuesday, a low pressure area (LPA) was estimated at 340 kilometers southeast of Davao City.

At 10:00 a.m. Monday, PAGASA said the LPA was estimated at 410 km southeast of Davao City. This weather disturbance is embedded along the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) affecting Mindanao.

These weather systems are expected to bring moderate to heavy rains (5.0 – 15.0 mm/hr) and thunderstorms in Mindanao particularly in the regions of Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN, which may trigger flashfloods and landslides, the state weather agency said on Monday.

Norala town in South Cotabato reported Monday flooding in seven villages. In nearby General Santos City, several low-lying villages were also flooded.

Flaviano appealed to small-scale miners in T’boli town to refrain from operating until the weather condition improves, noting that heavy rains have been monitored in the gold-rich village of Kematu in the last two days.

He also disclosed that the team discovered Monday several illegal gold tunnels that have sprouted lately in a critical slope.

“They are prone to landslides. We don’t give permits to operators in dangerous zones to avoid disasters,” Flaviano said.

Last year, the provincial government closed several gold tunnels operated by small-scale miners in dangerous zones.

In March 2012, the provincial government started establishing the geographic coordinates of high-risk areas in the gold-rich town of T’boli in a bid to make small-scale mining operations there safe.

In coordination with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional office, Flaviano noted the move was meant to avert tragedy in the small-scale mining site, and was in line with the drive against illegal mining activities in the town.

It was 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 are 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. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)