SouthCot closes down 45 small-scale mineral ore processing plants

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 23 June) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has temporarily closed down 45 small-scale mineral ore processing plants in the municipality of T’boli due to lack of proper permits and licenses.

Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environment and Management Office (PEMO) chief, said Monday they issued the closure order against the mineral ore processors after failing to present any permit or license during a recent inspection, monitoring and verification drive conducted by their enforcement personnel.

He said they launched the inspection following reports that a number of processing plants, specifically those involved in the extraction of gold from mined ores in the area, have long been operating without permits.

“We’ve given them enough time to process their permits and licenses but they still failed so we ordered their closure,” he said.

Flaviano said the erring ore processors are based in sitios Oro 1 and Lugan in Barangay Poblacion and sitios Pag-asa and Chavez in Barangay Edwards in T’boli town.

These comprise 44 ball mills and one carbon in-pulp plant, which process ores mined by small-scale miners in the gold-rush villages of Kematu and Desawo, he said.

Flaviano said the erring ore processing plants will not be allowed to resume their operations unless they secure the proper permits from the municipal and provincial governments.

Before they can be issued with a permit, he said the ore processors need to first secure and present a legal source permit, supply contract agreement, flow sheet plant operation and environment compliance certificate for a processing plant operation.

He said they are also required to get a barangay resolution, zoning certification, business permit and a certification from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office of T’boli.

PEMO issued the closure orders in compliance with a directive from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) and the provisions of Provincial Ordinance No. 7, series of 2003.

Ordinance No. 7 specifically sets the “taxes, fees, charges and other impositions on small-scale mining, mineral processing operations and transporting of mineral ore within the province of South Cotabato.”

The PMRB directed the crackdown against unlicensed or unregistered ore processors and ball mills as part of its campaign against illegal mining operations in the province.

Based on the provincial government’s monitoring, around 300 ball mills and 200 ore processing plants were operating in T’boli town.