Illegal gold quarries still rampant in Bohol, says BEMO

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Illegal gold quarries still rampant in Bohol, says BEMO

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A composite rescue team retrieved the body of two men who were buried beneath rocks and soil after a landslide hit an illegal quarry site in Sitio San Isidro, Barangay Candabong in Anda town in March.|File Photo: Candijay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office

Illegal miners continued to extract gold from Talibon and Trinidad despite repeated calls from the Bohol Environment Management Office (BEMO) to comply with mining policies. 

Bohol has attracted illegal miners, considering areas rich in metallic minerals such as gold mostly in Talibon and Trinidad. But until now, none have applied for a mining permit,” according to BEMO Technical Staff Leonilo Lafuente.

Lafuente said they tracked down illegal quarry sites for gold and inspected these areas.

The BEMO team found tunnels dug for the illegal quarries.

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Lafuente said they also prioritized actions against illegal sand and gravel extraction and illegal extraction of minerals in caves.

He warned that public safety might be at stake if these illegal activities would be tolerated further without precautionary measures.

He added that unregulated mining activities deprive the concerned government agencies the opportunity to monitor the implementation of safety measures and the compliance on the rules on the allowable volume of materials to be extracted.

Lafuente said that BEMO even asked the illegal miners to form a cooperative and apply for a permit to create Minahan ng Bayan in the areas.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR, through its Metallurgical Technology Division (MeTD), assists “small-scale miners especially in the field of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy of gold”.

The MGB has explained that the “project is aligned with the passage of the revised Implementing Rules and Regulation of Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act”.

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Under RA 7076, “the establishments of centralized custom mills within Minahan ng Bayan areas are required”

On this, the MeTD’s comes in by assisting “the processors in the design and construction of modular gold cyanidation plants including tailings detoxification and storage facilities”.

The MeTD aims to make the small-scale miners understand the need to establish “an environmentally-compliant and economically-sound custom mill in preparation for the creation of a Minahan ng Bayan in the area”.

“Modular gold cyanidation plants (custom mills) with appropriate environmental protection components can be established to help the small scale industry,” as the MeTD campaigns.

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The problem in Bohol is that the mining activities are not confined in private lands.

He said the challenge now is how to resolve environmental conflicts in private lands.

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Lafuente explained that since mining involves public interest, areas with mineral resources are to be expropriated which means the government or the local government unit will purchase the property at a reasonable price and takes charge of the development of the area.

In Mindanao, the quarry are mostly in public lands just as the DENR would say “If it cannot grow timber, it could be mined,” according to Lafuente.

However, in Bohol, there has been no public land recommended by the DENR for mining.

He further explained that under existing laws the public or any citizen is prohibited from tilling a land above 18 percent in slope which means more or less 45 degrees in slope.

Under the land classification, the sloping areas at 90-100 percent, which are already cliffs, belong to forestland or timberland.

Lafuente then cited Presidential Decree 705 in 1972 and those lands with such range of slopes had been titled before that time.

He also cited cases in Loon where the mountains are private lands.

“Sa Loon, daghang mga kabunturan diba? Kaning mga kabunturan mga private lands na sila. Naa ni titulo. Ang mga taga-Manila, di katuo. Moingon sila ‘Hindi kami naniniwala don, ba’t nagkaganon?’ What happened is that since we have VIPs in Loon working in Malacañang before, pirma ng pirma lang si President through then vice presidnet Fernando Lopez og mga titulo nga wa sila kakita unsay dagway. Hastag mga pungkay bisag very steep slope nga mountain, gititulohan,” according to Lafuente.

He said that the new law only came in 1970s providing that lands with above 18 percent slope are to be declared timberland or forestland.

Those with slope below such range is an agricultural or tillable land.

“But still atong i-implement what is good for that area because, o parehas sa Loon, yamo silay lasang. Wala silay lasang nga public, gawas sa mangroves. O naay mangroves. Pero sa upland? What will protect sa ilahang mga springs didto kung basta basta nalang pakawalan. Unya gasige na’g kaingin tung mga tag-iya kay samay tamnan nilag mais. Ingon ini gihapon ang result,” Lafuente explained.

On this, the BEMO helped the provincial government draft Provincial Ordinance no. 1 series of 1998 known as the Bohol Environment Code.

Under the Bohol Environent Code, the mandate of the government and the rest of the LGUs is to implement Bohol’s own environmental programs in consonance with the national laws.

“In other words, we are having that Bohol Environment Code to recognize nga naay national law and to integrate that national law with the local governance.  (with reports from Zerrah Lynn Arcayena, HNU Masscom Intern)

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