Gov't probe team confirms dynamite, mercury use in NVizcaya mining town
by Ben Moses Ebreo
Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya (29 June) -- The use of dynamites and mercury among small scale miners in barangay Runruno here continue even as provincial officials ordered the suspension of their operations due to their illegal activities.
In a report given by the Runruno Multi-sectoral Mining Team(RMMT) to the INQUIRER, two successive blasts were heard during the conduct of information campaign in sitio Bit-ang in April 15.
During rainy days, sitio Bit-ang can be reached for more than 2 - hour hike from barangay Runruno proper.
The blasting operations were witnessed by officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources(DENR), Philippine National Police(PNP) and other government agency representatives.
"This confirmed our suspicion that illegal use of dynamites are rampant among small scale miners in Runruno. It was only when policemen warned them that they stopped their blasting," said provincial environment and natural resources officer Robert Apigo, also the RMMT chairman.
The RMMT which was formed to look into the issues and concerns in barangay Runruno also conducted census and parcellary survey to identify the existing occupants in sitio Bit-ang. "This will serve as our baseline data to know who are the legitimate occupants in the area," Apigo added.
He said the RMMT members also witnessed the use of mercury among ball mill operators and owners in sitio Bit-ang designed to process gold and indiscriminately dumped along creeks causing them to be contaminated.
Apigo warned that new migrants have also settled in several areas in Runruno inorder to claim for compensatory pay for their improvements and developments from the FCF Minerals Corporation who holds an exploration permit in the area covering about 3,093 hectares for gold and molybdenum deposits.
He said that out of the coverage, 80 to 90 percent are classified as forestland where some occupants have insisted to settle in the prohibited zones.
"We have requested FCF Minerals Corporation to stop buying lands occupied by the settlers. They should only pay the improvements introduced in the area to discourage the influx of new migrants," Apigo explained.
RMMT was organized and mobilized by the DENR in response to the call of Rep. Carlos Padilla and governor Luisa Cuaresma during a conference at the Nueva Vizcaya State University(NVSU) in Bayombong town in March 12 on the stoppage of illegal mining activities in barangay Runruno and to investigate the allegations of the Runruno Landowners Association(RULANAS) and the Bit-ang Residents Association(BRA) who blamed FCF Minerals Corporation's use of chemicals in their exploration activities that caused the contamination of the rivers, emergence of skin diseases and landslides whenever strong typhoons hit the province, the latest was typhoon "Emong" where barangay Runruno was isolated for three days due to landslides that destroyed the roads.
The Runruno Tribal Tunnel Owners and Gold Panners Association(RTTOGPA) which serves as the umbrella organization of RULANAS and BRA consists of 33 tunnel owners and small scale workers, 15 ball mill and tunnel owners, 17 gold panners and 95 small scale miners within sitios Bit-ang, Malilibeg, Tayab and Balcony based on DENR 2008 list.
The provincial officials gave the order "to provide fair and proper perspective" between both parties due to the failure of RULANAS and BRA in obtaining permit from the provincial government's Small Scale Mining Regulatory Board since 1960s.
But Josie Guillao, RTTOGPA representative in a letter to Padilla dated March 12 recognized their shortcomings and appealed for the government's leniency and help on their adjustment for other alternative livelihood.
"If our activities will be stopped now, a lot of our people will suffer from hunger and lack of education because we are totally dependent on small scale mining," RTTOGPA said in their letter.
According to Apigo, RMMT which is a multi-agency group intends to help and facilitate the peaceful settlement of claims and conflicts among small scale miners and the FCF Minerals Corporation to ensure the proper protection and environmental management of the areas covered by exploration permit.
RMMT in its report also recommended the following: stoppage of the company's buying of lands occupied by migrant since it lies within the forest zone, the company should assist affected occupants in developing sustainable livelihood projects and as responsible partners on environment protection, continuance of parcellary survey in sitios Malilibeg, Tayab and Balcony and identification of claimants within the exploration area, the local government unit should prevent, regulate and control the influx of new migrants specially in forest zones to avoid conflicts, stoppage of illegal small scale mining activities to prevent migration, stoppage of 'Kaingin' making and timber poaching to minimize soil erosion and landslides, dismantling of ball mills and closure of tunnels to avoid pollution of bodies of water and sustainance of information campaign on environmental laws, rules and regulations, peace and order and development of livelihood projects to increase and broaden the awareness of the affected communities. (PIA NVizcaya) [top]