ITOGON, Benguet – Some 88 pocket miners who will not be able to perfect their documents to legitimize their operations along the Ambalanga River will be physically booted out of their working areas after the lapse of the 3-month grace period granted to them to legitimize their operations in the area, a top official of the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) said recently.
EMB-CAR Regional Director Reynaldo S. Digamo said one of the major conditions that the pocket miners have to comply is to abandon the use of hazardous chemicals in the extraction of minerals from the ore that they are able to mine out from their mine tunnels in the area within the 3-month grace period to prevent the repeated discoloration of the water in the Ambalanga River which is an indication of the use of harmful chemicals in the operation of their mineral processing plants that spill their waste on the river system.
“We leave the matter up to the concerned pocket miners because they signed an undertaking for them to institute the necessary corrective measures in relation to the operation of their mineral processing plants. We will monitor their compliance to their commitment because if they will not be able to do so, they have to voluntarily leave their work places or else we will seek the assistance of law enforcers for them to be physically removed out of the place,” Digamo stressed.
The EMB-CAR official explained based on the investigation conducted by the agency’s personnel after the discoloration of the water in the river that turned bluish, the concerned pocket miners were said to have used harmful chemicals such as cyanide and mercury in the extraction of the minerals from the ores that they were able to mine out from their working areas.
According to him, the pocket miners who are members of several small-scale mining associations in the Gumatdang area committed to Mayor Victorio Palangdan and officials of the EMB-CAR and the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) that they will process the documents for the legalization of their operations and the non-use of chemicals in the operation of their mineral processing plants.
Digamo pointed out the pocket miners were issued the appropriate warnings by the MGB-CAR and EMB-CAR personnel who conducted the investigation on the illegal small-scale mining operations being done in the area by the involved pocket miners for them to comply with existing rules, laws, and regulations.
He underscored the importance of the non-use of hazardous chemicals in the conduct of their pocket mining operations because it will result to the pollution of the river system and the deprivation of the people from their traditional fishing activities that serve as one of the sources of livelihood, thus, the need for the pocket miners to cooperate with the implementation of the standards in the operation of their mineral processing plants that were illegally erected along the river system aside from the fact that the concerned small-scale mining groups must secure the necessary documents that will legitimize their operations.
Digamo said the government recognizes the need for the pocket miners to have their sources of livelihood in place that is why they must cooperate with the regulating authorities to comply with the rules and regulations for their sustained operations in the area.