Task force seizes 12 hydraulic pumps

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TWELVE hydraulic pumps used in illegal mining were confiscated by members of the Unified Task Force Iponan during a surprise raid in Opol town, Misamis Oriental on Tuesday morning.

Vice Governor Norris Babiera, co-chair of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) who led the raiding team, said they swooped down the sitios of Linapasan and Araw-araw in Barangay Bagocboc, Opol town.

Linapasan and Araw-araw are two sitios fronting Barangay Pagalungan in Cagayan de Oro City where illegal mining activities are reportedly rampant.


The group failed to arrest individuals doing the illegal activities but they were able to confiscate several machines, each of which reportedly costs P30,000.

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Members of the Philippine National Police haul one of hydraulic pumps that the Unified Task Force Iponan confiscated from illegal miners along the riverbank in Sitios Linapasan and Araw-araw in Barangay Bagocboc, Opol town on Tuesday morning. (Joey P. Nacalaban)
CAGAYAN DE ORO. Residents in the area depend on gold panning as their livelihood. (Joey P. Nacalaban)

At the site, several tribal leaders approached Babiera to spare some of the units, saying they would just finish their work until the end of the month.

However, Babiera refused to heed their request.

It was learned that more illegal hydraulic mining activities are operating within Barangay Bagocboc and other hinterland barangays of Cagayan de Oro.

But Babiera said they would not include those illegal mining activities in Cagayan de Oro since it is no longer under their jurisdiction.

“They also have special permits from the Office of the City Mayor," he said.

Demosthenes Mabunay, a gold panner in Sitio Linapasan, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro he has been involved in manual gold panning for 20 years.

He said he depends on this activity to feed his family.

Mabunay said almost all residents in the barangay are into manual gold panning or employed at big-time concessioners who use hydraulic mining.

"We are no longer into farming because we still need big capital to plant unlike in gold panning where we can have money in the afternoon," said the 56-year-old Mabunay.

He said he can get 20 milligrams of gold everyday which he also sells to a buyer in the barangay for P300.

Mabunay also revealed that hydraulic mining operators are using mercury, a chemical element that is known to be toxic, to separate gold from the soil.

The raiding team is composed of members from the 58th Infantry Battalion under Colonel George Banson, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Philippine National Police regional and provincial offices, Opol police operatives and the Technical Operations Group of the Air Force.

Related to this, Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno said he is happy with the task force’s accomplishment.

Moreno said he will continue to arrest anyone who would violate the law while hoping that other concerned leaders will follow to save the mountains from further destruction.

"I know many will get angry at me and the group but I just hope that someday, they would realize that what we are doing is for the good of the majority so as not to repeat again what had happened during the flash floods last December 16 and 17," he said.

Meanwhile, the City Council is set to investigate the complaints of residents in Barangay Dansolihon, Cagayan de Oro about the wanton cutting of trees allegedly done by a mining company that reportedly affect the water source in the area.

Councilor Edgar Cabanlas said Tuesday he received a complaint last February 21 signed by at least 356 residents from the barangay urging the City Government to stop the illegal activities and save their water system from further destruction.

According to the complaint, Cabanlas said prior to the mining company’s operations, the water supply in the barangay was “clean and abundant.”

However, he said the residents now complained of “very dirty and slow flowing or sometimes no water.”

“The residents said this was due to the bulldozing activity and cutting of trees in the mountains by the said mining company,” Cabanlas said.

He said if these illegal activities will continue, the barangay will later suffer from scarcity of water.

Based on the complaint, the mining company bulldozed the area and cut the trees to make access roads going to its mining site.

With this, Cabanlas is urging for an investigation on how the company was able to operate in the area.

“These miners are slowly taking away our minerals and destroy the natural ecosystem of Barangay Dansolihon,” he said.

City Councilor President Elipe, chairperson of the committee on environment, vowed to conduct an investigation on the issue.

Elipe said if upon investigation they would find out that the company is operating without any permit or have violated the mining law, he assured to have them “removed or be answerable to the law.”

At the same time, Elipe also encouraged the residents to file a complaint in the barangay about their water problem. (With Nicole J. Managbanag)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 29, 2012.

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