Tampakan village off limits due to ground cracks

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 June) — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 12 has declared as “off-limits” to residents a portion of an upland village in Tampakan town due to the confirmed presence of ground fissures or cracks that might trigger some major landslides.

Constancio Paye Jr., MGB Region 12 director, said Friday they have recommended the immediate closure of areas within Sitio Campo Kilot in Barangay Pula Bato where the ground cracks were found to ensure the safety of residents in case landslides will occur in the area.

He said joint inspection teams from the MGB-12 and the South Cotabato Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) have already visited the area twice since the ground cracks were first reported by local residents late last month.

“Based on their assessment, there are some tension cracks that emerged at a portion of a mountain there. (But) these are considered as normal cracks that have developed due to natural causes,” he said in a radio interview.

A geology website noted that tension cracks “may develop in a slope when the inclination angle of the slip surface is steep and when the sliding mass is sitting on a weak foundation material.”

Paye explained that the tension cracks found in Pula Bato might have developed because of the condition of the area’s terrain, the impact of gravity changes and the heavy rains in the area in the past weeks.

The official said the area should be sealed off from local residents as portions of the mountains where the tension cracks have developed might eventually give way and cause some landslides.

Paye said their inspection team assessed all possible areas that could be affected by the landslides and noted that they are so far clear of settlement or human activity.

“The area is quite far from the established communities there and our team made sure that there are no properties or persons situated at the vicinity of the affected areas,” he said.

The Barangay council of Pula Bato earlier reported that some cracks measuring about a meter wide have started to emerge in portions of Campo Kilot following several days of sporadic heavy rains in the area.

The cracks were found around 300 meters away from an illegal banlas or sluice mining site in Sitio Campo Kilot, which is part of the mining tenement of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).

Banlas mining, which is considered a highly-destructive mining method, involves the pouring of large amounts of water using high-pressure water jets on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore, and then pan them with mercury.

The use of the illegal mining method, which was first uncovered in a mining village in T’boli town, has increased in the last several years in several small-scale mining areas in Tampakan.

Reports said the banlas mining operations in Tampakan are centered in Campo Kilot, where several hectares of a mountain in the area were already destroyed based on an aerial survey conducted by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

Two years ago, four alleged banlas mining workers were killed after a major landslide hit a portion of an illegal mining site in Campo Kilot. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)