DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 June) – The plan of the state-run Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) to relocate the small-scale miners from Mt. Diwalwal to Barangay Mabatas in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province should not mean the entry of large-scale mining companies that would only deprive community members of their livelihood, an official said on Wednesday.
In a phone interview, Monkayo Mayor Ramil L. Gentugaya maintained his opposition to PMDC’s plan to bring in investors, saying they will only extract all minerals to the detriment of small-scale miners.
He said the local government unit (LGU) supports the PMDC’s initiative to clear the gold rush area of small-scale miners, to clean the nearby Naboc River that has been polluted with mercury and cyanide, toxic chemicals used by the miners.
He said the local government is even willing to provide trucks for the transfer of the processing plants but added the LGU maintains it favors small-scale mining over large-scale mining.
But the mayor stressed the PMDC must focus on the river cleanup first rather than on inviting large-scale miners to situate in Mt. Diwalwal.
“My stand is that the God-given resources must go to the small-scale miners in our community because we know if the large-scale miners will come it, they will extract everything,” he added.
He said the Mabatas relocation area is not yet ready because it has no electricity, which is necessary to run the processing plants of the small-scale miners.
He said it is PMDC’s responsibility to connect the area to the power grid.
On March 28 this year, Gentugaya ordered PMDC to cease and desist from any mining and exploration activities in Barangays Mt. Diwata, Upper Ulip and all other areas within the municipality for “defiance, violation and continued mining exploration activities” without appropriate consultation and coordination with the local government.
The order covers all other mining areas under the control of PMDC, including those covered by joint operating agreements (JOAs) without the requisite mayor’s clearance pursuant to the Municipal Environment Code.
Gentugaya added that PMDC president Alberto M. Sipaco Jr. failed to secure permits from the local government when they constructed the structures for the Mabatas relocation site such as the water system and the electric posts.
But Sipaco told a press conference on Monday that PMDC issued an execution order last May 21 to their CDO dated July 2017 after then Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II nullified the mayor’s order since it only cited a local ordinance which, he said, could not supersede the authority of the PMDC.
“After I have executed the execution (May 21), there were no less than 210 manifested that they are going to transfer, that they are going down to the Mabatas. In fact, all of them now are working on the area that PMDC had allotted to them where they can situate their ball mills and CIP (carbon in pulp) tanks,” Sipaco said.
He said 210 of 223 ball mill operators had signed up and agreed to be transferred to Mabatas area, which covers 60 hectares on the same mountain range with a capacity of 50 to 70 millions of tons of tailings.
A portion of the order read: “All affected parties are enjoined to stop operations immediately upon receipt of this notice, and without delay dismantle their facilities for transfer to the Mabatas Relocation site. Any effort to subvert, disrupt or manipulate the CDO implementation will be charged in court for illegal mining and tax evasion, and those who use extralegal means will face arrest.”
Sipaco said the small-scale miners failed to follow so-called responsible mining practices and caused contamination by using mercury and cyanide.
“And now, as I said, the major thrust presently of PMDC is to totally eradicate or eliminate the poison spilled out from the illegal operations of these small scale mining, ball mills and carbon and pulp plants, which use cyanide. Cyanide, aside from mercury, is a poisonous chemical, is a toxic chemical,” he said.
He added those chemicals endangers animals, humans and plants.
“In our almost 15 seminars that I held up there before these people, (I told them) that there is a need to sacrifice, meaning that if you cannot have this income now who can you blame? Because all these 30 years you have been there, you are not paying taxes, you are not paying permit fees, and you are not selling you gold to Central Bank. What happened? The government has no income,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)