Bukidnon eyes ‘Minahan ng Bayan’ in Libona illegal gold mine area

MALAYBALAY CITY  (Bukidnon News/22 October) The Bukidnon Provincial
Government has urged the groups of small scale miners in Sitio
Manlahuyan, Gango, Libona, Bukidnon to produce the requirements for
the declaration of about 58 hectares in the area as “Minahan ng
Bayan,” Samuel Cadavos, Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources
Officer said.

Cadavos said Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr has called on
the Bukidnon Small Scale Miners Association (BUSSMA) and the Bukidnon
Integrated Small Miners Association (BISMA) to merge to process the
requirements.

But Cadavos said the land status clearance of the area is the biggest
obstacle to the plan at the moment.

The area, he added, is reported to be part of the Forest Land Graze
Management Agreement granted by the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources to the Pelaez family.

According to a DENR database of the FLGMA areas in the Philippines, E.
Pelaez Ranch Inc. area was issued an FLGMA in June 1996 and will
expire in December 2020.

Cadavos quoted Zubiri as saying they will convince the Pelaezes to
waive the mining area from their FLGMA area. But he said no waiver has
been obtained yet as of September 2011.

Cadavos said declaring the area as a minahan ng bayan according to RA
7076, will help them solve the “complicated problem” in the illegal
mining area.

Cadavos, chief of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources
Office (BENRO), warned members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in
September that the mining operations in the area have become a complex
“social, technical, environmental and political” problem.

“I ask your help to stop this problem,” he appealed to the provincial
board members then.

Cadavos noted that he has ordered several times the closure of the
mine sites but operations keep on recurring. He warned that the
operators are now armed and resisting government attempts to stop
mining activities in the area.

Two groups of operators are running the mining sites – the Bukidnon
Integrated Small-Scale Miners Association (BISSMA) and the Bukidnon
United Small Scale Miners Association (BUSMA) – with at least 2,000
miners. But none of them obtained a valid small-scale mining permit at
the provincial government, Cadavos said.

The operations, he added, include prospecting, exploration, actual
extraction of gold ore from tunnels, and processing and recovery of
gold using mercury and cyanide.

He said when they investigated, the latest on August 23, they found
ball mills, rod mills and a carbon in-pulp plant used in processing
and recovering gold, which they used aside from the common tailings
pond constructed by the province.

Following his presentation at the SP, Zubiri led a team of provincial
government officials for a deliberation in the area where they met
representatives from the small scale mining groups, the municipal
government, and other stakeholders.

Then Cadavos said the small-scale gold miners in at least 58 hectares
in the area, operating illegally and using mercury and cyanide, were
financed by foreigners.

But he told Bukidnon News this week, the Chinese nationals he reported
earlier were only financiers of the WHK Manufacturing and Trading
Corporation, who obtained a memorandum of agreement with Libona mayor
Leonardo Genesis Calingasan, to clean the tailings pond constructed by
the provincial government.

Then, he said although the MOA was for WHK to do the cleaning, it now
appears that the firm has illegally gone into gold processing as well
as investigators noted that there are now structures for mineral
processing being used by WHK. Investigators also found sacks of
extracted gold ore in the processing site.

BENRO, Cadavos said, has advised WHK to stop and secure requirements
prior to any mining operation.
WHK’s Shi denied they were in for gold.

In 1986, small-scale miners began to operate in the area, previously
proposed for “minahan ng bayan.” Cadavos said the provincial
government through the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB)
during the administration of former governor, now vice governor, Jose
Maria R. Zubiri Jr.

“However, until this time there was no official communication received
from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)
regarding status of their application,” Cadavos said.

He noted the problem why a small-scale mining permit cannot be issued.
He said the same area is also inside the 2,000-hectare area the DENR
awarded to the Pelaez family.

“Hence there is conflict in terms of land use, conflict between the
intention and mining operation over the same piece of land,” Cadavos
added.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR-10 issued a cease and
desist order (CDO) against illegal mining and illegal mineral
processing in the area as of August 3, 2011. Alfredo Relampagos, MGB
regional director who signed the order, also warned about the common
tailings pond in the area.

Relampagos wrote to Cadavos on Aug. 12 that they found spillage of
effluents containing mercury and cyanide and sediments from the pond
resulting in a “very high total suspended solids.”

Cadavos described the situation in his Sept. 14 report to the SP as
“increase on mercury contamination.” He called on a multi-partite
stakeholders’ dialogue to address the “multi-faceted problem.”

Cadavos has ruled out recommending closure of the mines because “it
would mean loss of livelihood.”. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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