By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Local government officials, small scale mining operators and miners assailed the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board’s (PMRB) order that limits the processing of ore, milling or sluicing.
Speaking in mixed Ilokano and English, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan pointed out the PMRB’s advisory on the issuance of temporary permit released on October 18 negates the purpose of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to allow the processing of ore.
“This does not solve the predicament of the residents of Itogon on livelihood,” the official said during a roundtable discussion with media on October 21 in Tuding, Itogon.
Accompanied mainly by financiers and miners from the said barangay, the town chief said that more than a month of operation stoppage, families depending on small-scale mining are now drowning in debts and at the verge of starvation.
Appeal to authorities
The local executive and affected individuals also appealed to authorities to allow CIP and CIL to process the ore they have stacked before the typhoon struck and before the DENR order was issued in Itogon, Benguet.
“We are pleading with the PMRB to include the CIP and CIL because this are the biggest groups of SSM [operation]. How can our people recover from the aftermath of the devastation if they will not allow this,” said the mayor.
He added that about 12,000 individuals depend on SSM for their daily needs losing their source of funds completely leaves them nothing for sustenance and education for their youth.
“They are getting hungry,” Palangdan said, adding that “to date, miners are still waiting for their shares (from the stocks stored before the storm) since there was no operation since Habagat (the monsoon),” which the financiers confirmed.
“What we do is only hand them couple of hundred pesos if they come and ask. We also feel the impact of not having any income for the past months. We know that what we give them is not even enough to sustain them for a few days,” shared Fred Segundo, who operates a mine and administers five groups comprised of 30 miners.
“As per directive of the DENR Secretary in answer to your petition please be advised that the PMRB-Benguet Province will be issuing temporary permits to operate ball mills and sluicing activities only,” reads the order.
The document is signed by MGB Director Faye Apil and Governor Cresencio Pacalso who chairs and co-chairs the PMRB respectively. The SSM representative, Engineer Lomino Kaniteng also signed the order.
Letter of application shall indicate location and quantity of stockpile, rate of milling per day and estimated days to process. Permits to be issued will be valid for a limited period with specified expiration date. Interested parties are given only five days after receiving the notice to submit the requirements.
“Please be advised that CIP/CIL processing shall remain strictly prohibited. Any violation shall be dealt accordingly,” states the advisory.
Based on municipal record, of the registered miners, 10,000 are dependent on chemical processing.
Asked how long is the period the miners are asking for the use of CIP/CIL to process current ore stockpile, the mayor said, “It depends on the stock, we will compute that so that the days they will give the temporary permit will be determined properly and the processors will have a meeting with MGB how can they monitor their activity.”
He also committed himself and the LGU to help the MGB, PMRB to ensure that operators will comply with the safety and environmental measures, and until the approval of the minahahang bayan.
The mayor noted that it is public knowledge that mining operations harvesting only free-gold are few because of the low return.
Segundo and his sister, Gina Abanga, who co-finance their operation, that includes milling and processing stations, said that ore from most of the mines are “low grade”. They argued chemical processing is necessary to optimize investment and operation.
“To extract only the free gold is not economically viable, we cannot recoup our expenses,” said Abanga.
Segundo said that ore stockpiling, milling and processing usually take three months before they produce the marketable product.
Norma Isnada, who also finances mining operations said that each individual involved receives a share of P15,000 to P80,000 from the net sale of a complete operation, depending on the quality of the ore.
“We cannot produce enough cash for our workers and needs for the operation if we only rely on the old method,” she said.
Like Segundo and Abanga, she argued that depending only on free gold from the milled ore is unprofitable.# nordis.net