The next Diwalwal? Dao’s illegal ‘P1-M’-a-day gold trade

MALAYBALAY CITY – About P1 million a day or approximately P360 million per year worth of trade goes around in Brgy. Dao in San Fernando, Bukidnon over the small scale gold panning- mining operations there, a report from the provincial government’s Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office (BENRO) showed.

Yet, since it is illegal, the provincial government, even the barangay council, is not earning from it.

The June 13 BENRO report cited that there are close to 1,000 miners in the area panning for gold in the Salug River in Dao. The miners recover about a kilo gram of gold per day, which is sold on site at P1, 400 per gram, the report quoted village councilman Fausto Bacleran, former barangay captain as saying.

The operations has changed the economic landscape in the area, based on the report, as the locals have abandoned their farms and have concentrated to mining-panning as their main source of livelihood.

But the multi-million operation violated Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991. Also, the operations have serious environmental and health implications: miners use motorized water pump to strip soils for panning and mining to recover gold; human wastes, too, are thrown into the river, according to a source quoted in the BENRO report.

The problem has reached the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan earlier this month, where Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. led an initial hearing and ordered an investigation in aid of legislation.

Dao barangay captain Jimmy Ligoyon said in the hearing that the miners are mostly from the indigenous peoples (Matigasalug and Tiguahanons) in the area but there were also those who came from outside the town, including non-IP miners.

Ligoyon said Dao has local gold buyers. But an armed group under a certain “Kumander Salusad” (or Carillo Salusad) was reported to have allegedly brokered and earned from the transactions.

Ligoyon denied the panning-mining activities used mercury.

But a San Fernando municipal councilor told this reporter that the panning-mining activities also caused peace and order problems. He said the cases of killings and robbery increased in the area, without

He added that back in 2006, the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau did a survey of the area, after a local request, which sowed it is positive of gold. The local government asked the MGB to declare it as a
“Minahan ng Bayan” but up to now it was not realized.

He cited as one of the reasons is that no local people’s organization, a requirement, was put up.

If legalized, the area will become the province’s first “Minahan ng Bayan” after a site in Libona became problematic over an earlier issued tenurial instrument, Wilfredo Tagadiad, a BENRO officer assigned to small scale mining said.

In the provincial board hearing, Zubiri wanted to know more details. On June 10, a BENRO team was scheduled to visit the area to investigate the alleged illegal mining activities in the area.

But Tagadiad, who headed the team said local officials from the town warned them that going by themselves was “too risky” because of the armed groups and the recent slaying of a barangay official in the barangay next to Dao.

He told this reporter they did not proceed but instead interviewed sources from the area who were in Halapitan, the town center. In the hearing at the provincial board earlier this month, some members feared that the situation in Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon would follow that of Diwalwal, in Mt. Diwata, Monkayo, Compostela Valley where miners number have swollen and there was great difficulty or government to regulate.

In March, this year, then barangay captain Fausto Bacleran said the panning-mining operations have started long before but peaked in November 2010 because of the entry of many miners. He said miners use flasher or screen although he cited that there three tunnels bored to recover gold.

In February 2011, the municipal government ordered a cease of the operation but miners did not budge, according to Bacleran, as quoted in the minutes of a strategic planning session organized by CENRO Felix Obsioma on March 25, 2011. Tagadiad recommended in his report to declare the area as a “minahan ng Bayan” if qualified, so the government can regulate it.

The San Fernando municipal council and the DENR has called on the tribal council and barangay council officials in the area for a consultation on the issue.

The provincial board, according to board member Nemesio Beltran Jr, is yet to decide on its position, and is awaiting the BENRO report of investigation.  (Walter I. Balane)


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