Group discovers large-scale mining operation in Bukidnon town

IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon (MindaNews/14 September)– Large-scale chromite mining activities allegedly operating illegally have invaded a proposed “minahang bayan” (people’s mining area) straddling two villages here, the newly-formed caused-oriented group Barog Bukidnon said.

Last month, proponents for the declaration of the 2,000-hectare minahang bayan told residents during a consultation that they need the measure to protect the town from large-scale mining operations.

In a report to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on September 13, Barog Bukidnon showed photos from an ocular inspection in Sitio Abaga, Barangay Impalutao, Impasug-ong town last week that a large-scale mining operation exists in the area.

“Barog Bukidnon and concerned individuals/groups find it to be improper and hazardous considering the destruction it may cause not only in the locality but even in the neighboring places in the eastern part of Misamis Oriental,” Emma Molina, the group’s chair, said.

Molina told MindaNews Saturday the group is registering its strong opposition to the said mining activity.

Barog Bukidnon furnished copies of its report to President Benigno Aquino III, Interior and Local Governments Sec. Mar Roxas, local government officials and church leaders.

The report, prepared by San Isidro College professor Fred Martinez, said that mud from the chromite separator equipment used in the operations flows to the Dila Falls and into Tagoloan River.

Barog Bukidnon said the situation they found in Sitio Abaga, a guarded area, shows “that what was permitted to be small-scale mining is actually operating on a large-scale basis.”

According to the group, the mining operator, which it did not identify, uses a jackhammer, a spiral flusher to separate chromite and water pumps.

“(The high-grade chromite) mining operation is rather a large-scale mining operation,” Martinez added in his report, which he presented to the meeting of the leaders of the Diocesan Commission on Tuesday.

The day before, the group presented the report to Malaybalay Bishop Jose A. Cabantan, who backed plans by the group to widen the campaign opposing mining in Impasugong to the towns of Tagoloan and Vilanueva in Misamis Oriental, which are downstream of the Tagoloan River. They said they will seek the help of Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma.

Martinez said the mudflow contributes to the siltation of the Tagoloan River.

“No mining (activity) considered as responsible would look like the evidence we found,” said Martinez, who heads the Barog Bukidnon affiliate group Task Force Against Corruption.

The group cited that the Abaga mining site is small compared to the one in Kapayawan Mountain, where the group failed to enter due to heavy security.

Barog Bukidnon said mining interest in the town is fueled by the prospect of gold and other minerals in Impantaw Mountain, the main target for mineral extraction in the area.

The group vowed to oppose mining in Bukidnon to protect the environment from the ridge in Bukidnon to the reef in Macajalar Bay in Misamis Oriental.

The municipality of Impasug-ong was declared the “Tribal Capital of Bukidnon.” About three-fourths of its 42,972 population belong to the Higaonon tribe spread in 13 barangays of the town’s 107,167 hectares land area.

Municipal officials, during the consultations late in July and early August in barangays Kap. Bayog and Impalutao, said they need to declare the area as minahang bayan so that large-scale mining will not penetrate the town.

Noel Lumoyod, Impasug-ong municipal environment and natural resources officer, told villagers that mining is a national policy and to ensure it is “operated sustainably,” a local mechanism must be put in place to ensure protection.

He said the municipal government will put up its own protective policies as the national mechanism had to be customized to fit the local situation.

Former mayor Joy Okinlay said they are not converting the whole town into a mining area, noting “they will keep the zones to ensure there will be areas dedicated to mining, agriculture and tourism.“

She also denied that mining operations destroyed the Dila and the Tagoloan rivers, blaming instead agricultural companies for the damage.

Of the three chromite mining permits in Impasug-ong, only that of Rowena Omante in Kibuwa, in Barangay Impalutao has not expired. Approved in June 7, 2012, it is due to expire in 2014.

Those granted to Christopher Maandig in Impalutao and Alfredo Lagunday in Kap. Bayong had expired in September 2010 and June 2013, respectively.

Aside from the proposed minahang bayan in Impasug-ong, there are also proposed similar declarations in Libona and San Fernando towns, which have not issued small-scale mining permits so far. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)