Entrance to an illegal mining site in Agusan del Sur
AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is planning to file charges against operators of an illegal mining site in Barangay Consuelo in the municipal town of Rosario.
Recently, a team composed of representatives from the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), inspected the site.
The operation was intended to demolish all 12 illegal small-scale mining sites in the area.
The DENR said risk of soil erosion is high in the area because the ground is overly saturated.
“Ang mga area na dito ay delikado na po. Nanganganib na magkaroon ng landslide dahil po ang ground stability po ng area ay humina na po dahil sa dami ng hukay na isinasagawa dito sa ilalim,” said DENR-Caraga spokesperson, Herzon Gallego.
It was the second time that the DENR held an operation in an attempt to close the mining sites.
The DENR ordered closure of the illegal mining sites in Barangay Consuelo in June following the issuance of a cease and desist order from the Agusan del Sur government due to lack of environmental compliant permit.
But the operation on Monday (December 3) was deferred after angry residents blocked the operating team from striking down the structures. Authorities decided to postpone the operation to prevent chaos.
“Ini-explain namin ang aming objective pero hindi po sila nakinig. Tinutulan nila. Sa nakikita naming situation, baka magkagulo at maraming mamatay. Minabuti na mag cool down; dadaanin nalang siguro sa kaso,” explained Gallego.
The DENR revealed that miners are able to dig up to 20 kilograms of gold each month form the mining sites. This volume is equivalent to P7 million in monetary value. This is the reason why the residents are adamant against the closure.
But the DENR clarified that the demolition of the mining sites does not mean the residents will be driven away from their homes.
“Layunin ng gobyerno na ma proteksyunan lang ang mga tao pero wala pong inuutos na palayasin ang mga tao doon. Sa area na maapektuhan, iyon lang po ang sinabihan ng MGB sa barangay captain (na umalis),” Gallego said.
Small-scale mining is allowed under the Philippine Mining Act but with certain provisions.
Because of the massive resistance from the miners, the DENR is now drafting a case to file against them for violations.
“Theft siguro dahil ninanakaw nila ang resources natin na walang pahintulot sa gobyerno. Hindi sila nagbabayad ng tax (so) tax evasion. Marami pong mga possibilities na paglabag sa batas na pinag aaralan po ng ating mga lawyers,” noted Gallego.
Meanwhile, agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are willing to provide an alternative source of income to miners and their families who are likely to be affected by the mining closure. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Raymond Octobre)