ITOGON, Benguet – The Benguet Corporation (BC) petitioned the government’s National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC) to close and stop the illegal mining and processing operations in the different parts of the municipality.
BC president Leopoldo S. Sison III informed the NTFMC that unregulated mining and processing activities of small-scale miners in the company’s patented mineral properties at Acupan, Gumatdang and Antamok are rampant that pose a serious threat to the state of the environment in the said places.
Aside from the unregulated pocket mining activities, Sison claimed small-scale miners allegedly established mineral processing plants without the consent of the company and the necessary licenses and permits issued by the government regulatory agencies.
Further, records also show that no environmental compliance certificate (ECC) has been issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to the operators of processing plants and to authorize them to dispose of mine waste and tailings which are considered gross violations of existing laws and regulations.
The BC official admitted the company’s mining properties had been encroached by the displaced miners from the community during the suspension of its Acupan, Kelly and Antamok mines in 1992 and that the company has done its part in issuing cease and desist orders or demand letters to the pocket miners to the point that it conducted blasting or blockages of small-scale mine portals, but the same are being reopened afterwards by the erring miners.
“Warnings to the pocket mining groups and even the filing of criminal cases has not deterred them from continuing their illegal activities. The company has been fighting a losing battle with the small-scale miners considering that they are organized into groups who resort to mass concerted actions, picketing activities and even physical harassment if confronted. This is not to mention that they are conducting the illegal small-scale mining activities with the full awareness of the local governments, and are being supported by the communities,” Sison stressed.
He claimed that the unabated mining and processing activities of the pocket miners in the said areas have allegedly caused adverse consequences, specifically that the mining plans of the company had been affected and that the net effect is to impede the industrial activity thereby curtailing its gold production and the earnings of its mining project to the prejudice of its stockholders, investors, employees, contractors, suppliers and even the government, which will lose out on additional taxes.
Apart from the mine safety issue, Sison underscored the unregulated mining activities are allegedly causing environmental degradation due to improper disposal of mine waste, tailings and chemicals, as well as damages to the infrastructures of the company which has been proven during the rainy seasons by recurring pollution and siltation of the Acupan river which goes all the way to the drainage facilities of the company that are located downstream.
The company asserted that the stoppage of the operation of pocket mining in the area will allow it to exercise its legal rights over the properties covered by its mining patents for the greater interest of its stockholders, investors and the government.