By GWEN GAONGEN
SAGADA, Mountain Province – Governor Leonard Mayaen says he is not in favor of the on-going open pit mining operation in Mainit, Bontoc.
As head of provincial mining regulatory board (PMRB), the governor stressed that small-scale mining is allowed in the province for as long as it is operated in the traditional way. This way destruction to the environment is minimized and manageable.
He added that large financiers are not needed as traditional mining production needs are minimal.
When we visited, the current mining activities being done in Mainit consist of an open pit system alongside tunneling for ore sites. There are eight active mine tunnels just 100 meters above the elementary school compound and four others in an adjacent lot.
A buck hoe, considered as heavy equipment, is being used to extract “nava” above the eight tunnels near the school compound. Villagers fear that the mining operation poses a threat to the water source of the rice fields and “uma” (swidden farms) below the mining site.
The governor said that aside from environmental destruction associated with open pit mining operations, the production activities and marketing are seen as funded and participated in by foreign nationals. The regular traffic of shipping ore out of the province is a measure of the scale of operations, and the heavy trucks plying the Mainit to Bontoc roads also contribute to the destruction of the standard village roads.
The governor has urged for a thorough investigation of mining operations in Mainit to aid legislation and formulation of governance policies and plans.
In a separate incident, a truck reported to have been hired by a Bangladeshi national Melon Hossain was apprehended and impounded for having mine tailings and nava (ore). The driver and his helper, unable to produce Ore Transport permits, were stopped. Their vehicle is presently impounded at the Bontoc police station.
In response to the growing small-scale mining operations in the province, the governor has organized the small scale miners association.
Mayaen said the provincial legal team is currently studying the application of the Philippine Small Scale Mining Act of 1991 and related laws in the province. The results of this research shall guide the province in its plans and dispensations to improve the management of small-scale mining operations vis a vis the protection of the environment, and the population.
Meanwhile, the local executive said he is drafting an Executive Memorandum to set up various check points in the province to check the illegal transport of nava and mine tailings from the province.
As to the province’s position on large-scale mining operations, Mayaen says the provincial government stands firm on its opposition to large-scale mining.
The governor has recently arrived from Hongkong on the invitation of Cordillera overseas workers organizations to speak on his province’s choice to uphold the peoples position against large scale mining operations in Mountain Province.