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Surigao governor orders crackdown vs small-scale mines


An example of a small-scale mining tunnel in Surigao del Norte. Contributed photo

Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas has ordered the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) to strictly monitor and make assessment of all small scale mining operations s within the province following the deaths of three pocket miners in Placer town last week.

“I am now sending legal team from PEMO to investigate the incident. We also need report from MGB and the regional director of the DENR so that illegal mining activities be stopped,” Matugas said.

“We are vigilant on illegal mining in our province but people continue to violate. This is also the LGU’s or mayor’s call,” she added.

Matugas reacted over reports that long before the Placer incident on alleged illegal mining activities because many have not seek permits for small-scale mining operations, there are also reports that illegal mining activities also on going in Barangay Ellaperal by few enterprising individuals.

The area where small scale gold mining activities and tunnels are located is in the remote island-Barangay of Ellaperal, which is an hour’s boat ride from the town proper of Placer, the reason why delay of the reporting of the incident plus no one is monitoring it.

Reportedly because in the absence of government regulation thus lacking of technical capabilities, allegedly no site planning procedures including proper way to conduct, handle gold mine tunneling including toxic waste disposal system, small scale miners always at risk and in fact many already were victimized of breath suffocation, physical injuries inside tunnels.

Under the law, it is the provincial government through provincial environment office is tasked in the regulation and issuance of permits in small-scale mining activities in the country.

Report from Placer Municipal Police Office through the town’s police chief, Chief Insp. Manolito Parazzo, three workers of a small-scale mining operation died due to inhalation of poisonous gas in a tunnel located in the mountainous part of Barangay Ellaperal.

Initial investigation conducted by the police showed that the incident took place 2 p.m. Tuesday as the three small scale miners were working inside a private mine tunnel, digging for gold.

Parrazo identified the victims as Angelo Nunez Alontaga, 35, Ryan Montenegro Elacion, 35, and Freddie Viola Basilio, 18, all residents of Barangay Magsaysay, in Placer.

Reportedly it took sometime before the victims small scale miners were hauled out of the island barangay because of its distance in reaching Sitio Layab, Barangay Ellperal, the weather condition at that time and the risk of navigating the motorboats during nighttime.

Meanwhile, the owner of the tunnel identified by police as Martin Gesta promised to shoulder funeral expenses of the victims.

Environmentalist groups have sought genuine investigation of the incident and other incidents in the past killing and caused injuries of small scale miners in the region saying more aside from no permits, there is no proper monitoring of all small scale mining activities in Caraga region.

Growing presence of armed groups who are responsible in ransacked of gold mining tunnel, robberies of buyers of gold ores and tunnel owners, killings, physical injuries including abduction are also allegedly rampant in small scale mining areas in gold mining towns in Agusan provinces. By Ben Serrano

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