BENGUET Corporation has called the attention of the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC) to put an end to the illegal small-scale mining activities within its patented mineral properties in Acupan, Gumatdang and Antamok in Itogon town, Benguet.
In a letter dated May 15, 2018 to NTFMC director Paquito Moreno, Benguet Corp. president Leopoldo Sison III said the unabated mining and processing activities have caused adverse consequences including mine safety environmental degradation due to improper disposal of mine wastes, tailings and chemicals, adding damage to the company’s infrastructure facilities.
“We ask the NTFMC to use its coercive and enforcive powers to force the SSM (small-scale mining) to stop their illegal operations,” Sison’s letter to the task force stated.
The task force is composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Philippine Army and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
It was formed earlier to conduct measures against SSM operators who have violated the mining law.
The company said it has issued cease and desist orders, but the SSM activities simply resume after a certain period.
“Warnings to the SSM groups and filing of criminal cases has not deterred them from continuing their illegal activities. The company has been fighting a losing battle with the SSM 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 mentioned they are conducting the illegal SSM activities with the full awareness of LGUs and are being supported by the communities,” added the petition.
The plea also cited the event on September 9, 2016 where 71 miners were trapped in a private SSM tunnel in Dalicno, Itogon and the occurrence of the massive landslide in Sitio Camp 5 on July 29, 2017 owing to unsafe SSM practices.
The company asked that the small miners relocate to Minahang Bayan (MB) areas, where mining and processing activities can be regulated by the government.
In 2002, the Acupan Contract Mining Project (ACMP) was formed to provide livelihood to the community and small miners were organized into groups as mining contractors.
Outside the ACMP and MB, all mining and processing activities by the SSM have been restrained and permanently stopped.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board during its first quarter meeting in May reported the conduct of field validation of the five parcels of clustered MB applications covering the seven barangays of Itogon in Ampucao, Gumatdang, Loacan, Poblacion, Tuding, Ucab and Virac which is equivalent to 3,300 hectares.
SSM President Lomino Kaniteng said a total of 39 SSM association were validated in the municipality this year, subject to approval by the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
With still no declared MB in the region, MGB-CAR regional director Fay Apil said the municipality of Bakun in Benguet is waiting for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary’s clearance to be declared as MB area. After the declaration, those who seek to apply for SSM within that area will apply for SSM contract.