Political will is needed to stop the small-scale mining operations at the boundary of Sipalay City and Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, that use hazardous and toxic chemicals, Eriberto Madalag, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Environment and Management Office Regulatory Services Division, said.
Madalag, who briefed members of the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council Friday in Kabankalan City on the status of mining operations in southern Negros, said that, despite the issuance of a cease-and-desist order by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the illegal activity continues.
He said the problem of unabated small-scale mining activities, that already covers 50 to 100 hectares of the hinterlands of Brgy. Nabulao, Sipalay City, has already been elevated to the Office of the President, but no action has been taken yet.
Madalag expressed fears that this may cause another Compostela Valley incident, where the latest landslides reportedly claimed the lives of about 100 miners.
PEMO investigations show that the toxic wastes are being dumped into a creek, that connects to the Bacuyangan River in Hinobaan, where they eventually kill the fish and shrimps.
Madalag said the limited technical skills of small-scale miners for using hazardous chemicals, not only endangers their health, but also affects the environment.
Small-scale miners have been digging holes and tunnels, in search of gold and copper, for several years now. They are using deadly chemicals, such like cyanide and mercury, in the processing and extraction of gold.
The threat of landslide is always there, especially during the rainy season, Madalag also said. He also raised the possibility that somebody may be financing the small-scale mining operations, because the presence of an armed group has been monitored off-and-on in the area.
Madalag stressed there is need for an alternative livelihood for small-scale miners, to convince them to abandon the illegal activity.
In one hole, he said, the miners manage to process 10 to 20 grams of gold in just one operation. A gram of gold is bought for P1,700 in the area.*GPB