5 Chinese, 15 PH laborers nabbed in CDO illegal gold mining site

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 May)—Authorities arrested five Chinese nationals and 13 Filipino laborers during a raid last Saturday in an illegal gold mining site in the environmentally threatened Iponan River here.

Illegal miners set up camp along Iponan River in Cagayan de Oro City.. MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Director Felizardo Gacad Jr., head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Mines and Geosciences Bureau 10, said they found a bottle of mercury among the tents used by the miners in Barangay Pigsag-an here.

Gacad said he had water samples taken along the Iponan River and vowed to check other possible mining sites to check if mercury have contaminated the waters.

“We need to revisit the site to see how rampant is the use of mercury in the illegal mining operations,” Gacad said.

Mercury is considered very dangerous to humans and the environment. Small-scale miners engaged in illegal mining operations use mercury to separate the gold from the soil.

A joint team of DENR personnel, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents and Army elite Special Forces raided the mining site in the hinterland village of Pigsag-an following a tip from a concerned citizen.

Lawyer Michael Pacuribot, chief of the DENR legal division, identified the Chinese as Mingzhi Meng, Shen Chuangao, Pan Jiquan, Luo Jian Hui, and Yuan Yin Lin.

NBI assistant regional director Norman Decampong said the Chinese nationals did not have passports and only showed copies of their Alien Certificates of Registration (ACR).

“All five Chinese nationals are from the mainland China and speaks only Mandarin,” Decampong said.

The NBI filed eight complaints against the Chinese nationals and Filipino laborers for violating sections of the Philippine Mining Act, Small-Scale Mining Act, Presidential Decree on the Water Code of the Philippines, National Pollution Control Decree of the Philippines, Philippine Clean Water Act, Revised Forestry Code, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and Revised Penal Code.

Pacuribot said the raiding team seized six excavators, a fuel tanker, a boom truck, a mini dump truck and various industrial water pumps worth more than P30 million.

The team raided the mining site at 4 a.m. on Saturday, catching the Chinese nationals and the laborers by surprise, according to Army Special Forces Captain Nerbon Estolloso.

He said his team of soldiers entered silently and caught the suspects feverishly working on the high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material from Iponan River.

“They must have been working in shifts because they were working at 4am,” Estolloso said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)