The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB 7) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the municipal government to establish a detachment center in Barangay San Franscisco, Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental to prevent illegal gold mining operators to come back in the said area.

This developed after at least 11 ball or rod mills operators used in the processing of illegally obtained gold deposits chose to ‘self-demolish’ in a warning issued by government authorities.

“We have successfully implemented the closure order with Santa Catalina Mayor Nathaniel Electona and the members of the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP),” said MGB 7 Regional Director Loreto B. Alburo.

Alburo said an AFP or a PNP station or a center could deter the possible return of these illegal operators while we continue to work for the eventual declaration of a people’s small scale mining area or ‘minahang bayan’ with the provincial mining regulatory board (PMRB) and other stakeholders.

According to MGB 7’s mining engineer III Edward Malahay, the joint team from the AFP, PNP, Santa Catalina municipal government, and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office Negros Oriental was able to seize a one unit of rod mill.

The said confiscated item has been deposited at the Santa Catalina municipal government for custody and safe keeping.

“What was left was a one unit rod mill when we got there and possibly the operators demolished them as a result of the dialogue we conducted last August 14 where we gave them one week to dismantle the equipment,” Malahay added.

For his part, DENR 7 Regional Executive Director Dr. Isabelo R. Montejo said “we don’t want to let our small-scale miners exposed on the hazards of the illegal activity such as cave-ins, landslides, or contamination from toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide which they use in gold processing”.

Alburo made a follow up letter last August 1 addressed to Electona after two separate letters last April 21 and May 2 to carry out the cease and desist order.

The MGB 7 asked Electona, AFP), and PNP to implement the order.

It could be recalled in the MGB 7 investigation, the report says “it observed small scale miners employing the amalgamation method or using mercury in recovering the gold through gold panning which is prohibited under Executive Order 79.  The activity covers more than 500 hectares in Sitios Damuyog, Kabuyonan, and Bancolino in Barangay San Francisco, Sta. Catalina.

Gold panning is a simple method of separating particles of gold from soil or gravels by washing in a pan with water.

Small-scale mining refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment.

The following are the measures to improve small-scale mining activities as stipulated in Executive Order 79 issued by President Aquino:  (1) the activities shall comply with Republic Act Number 7076, or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, and the Environmental Impact Statement System requirements under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1586; (2) pursuant to RA No. 7076, small-scale mining operations shall be undertaken only within the declared People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas or Minahang Bayan; (3) small-scale mining shall not be applicable for metallic minerals except gold, silver, and chromite, as provided for in RA No. 7076; (4) the use of mercury in small-scale mining shall be strictly prohibited; and, (5) training and capacity building measures in the form of technical assistance for small-scale mining cooperatives and associations shall be conducted by the concerned government agencies.