MASBATE CITY: Small-scale miners in the island province of Masbate have used explosives, which make their operations doubly illegal, according to the top official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) here.
Senior Supt Heriberto Olitoquit, PNP director in Masbate, recently said small-scale mining in Masbate were yet to be permitted by the provincial government and, thus, were deemed illegal.
“They (miners) are breaking another law with the use of explosives,” Olitoquit told the Bicol Mail in a phone interview.
He said the use of explosives was prohibited by law under
Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act 9516, which systemizes the laws on illegal possession, manufacture and acquisition of firearms, ammunition or explosives.
Mining in Masbate is concentrated in gold-rich Aroroy town, about 30km northwest of this provincial capital.
Olitoquit said that using explosives to extract gold ores had been a common practice in the town.
Five small-scale mining cooperatives operate in Aroroy, including: United Miner’s Gold Producer Cooperative, Lubacon Cooperative, Pre-Gold Producer Cooperative, Aroroy-Baleno Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and People’s Gold and Rice Producers Cooperative.
Olitoquit said he warned the co-operatives before the crackdown on their illegal operations starting August 8.
The crackdown, he said, was with the consent of Environmental Management Board, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and the provincial government.
The Anti-Explosive Task Force, composed of two police officials and 16 other police personnel, leads the crackdown on the proliferation and use of explosives in small-scale mining in Aroroy.
Small-scale mining activities in Aroroy, Olitoquit said, [had] caused deaths because of the unsafe mining practice of using explosives. Some, according to him, were victims of explosions in mining pits.
“There have been many cases of deaths related to illegal mining in Aroroy town over the years – from landslides to blasting of tunnels – by small scale miners,” Olitoquit added.
The provincial government is yet to organize mining sites in Aroroy into Minahang Bayan or communal mining area.
In Masbate, there are at least 3,000 small-scale miners, according to a data gathered during the first forum on small-scale mining, organized by the provincial government, on June 26 in Aroroy. – Bicol Mail