CONSTANT monitoring and partnership with various government agencies and local government units are necessary to protect the Iponan River, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Northern Mindanao said.

The Department of Natural Resources (DENR)-Northern Mindanao and the region's MGB called for a whole society approach for the rehabilitation and recovery of the area of the Iponan River damaged by illegal mining.

"There should be an extensive rehabilitation of the Iponan River; we cannot do this alone; it should be a shared responsibility of all stakeholders," MGB Regional Director Felizardo Gacad Jr. said.

On May 13, 2023, a joint operation was conducted by the DENR-Northern Mindanao and MGB-Northern Mindanao, together with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Northern Mindanao and the 4th Infantry Division, against the reported illegal mining operation in the borders of Barangays Cauyonan and Nangcaon in Opol, Misamis Oriental.

The said joint operation led to the arrest of five Chinese nationals and 13 Filipinos. The team also seized six excavators, one fuel tanker, one boom truck, one mini dump truck, industrial pumps, and other mining equipment and materials with an estimated amount of P30 million.

Eight cases were filed to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office against the illegal miners for violation of Sec. 103 of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; Sec. 27 of the People's Small-scale Mining Act of 1991; Article 91 (B) sub-paragraphs 3 and 5 of The Water Code of The Philippines; Sec. 8 of the Pollution Control Law; Sec. 27 of the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004; Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; Sec. 27 (a) of RA 9149; and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

According to MGB-Northern Mindanao, they discovered approximately 10.3 hectares of damage from the illegal miners. It added that it will take five to 10 years for the area to naturally recover.

It further said it is necessary to institute measures to allow the Iponan River to regenerate.

The region's DENR and MGB urged the public to help monitor all illegal activities for the protection of the environment and natural resources.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando "Klarex" Uy, for his part, said he wants improved coordination between the City Government, the local government unit of Opol, and the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental in rehabilitating mined areas in the Iponan River.

"The damage caused by illegal mining in Iponan River affects both Cagayan de Oro and Opol town in Misamis Oriental as this is a shared river ecosystem. Magtinabangay nalang kita sa pagpahibalik sa naguba nga kinaiyahan," Uy said in his statement.