Nueva Vizcaya stops small scale mining activities

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BAYOMBONG: The Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) here on Monday issued a stoppage order against illegal small scale mining activities in various villages in Nueva Vizcaya.

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In collaboration with the Philippine National Police, ENRO acting officer, Engr. Edgardo Sabado, said they have served the stoppage order which originated from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Region 2.

“We have confiscated illegally mined ores by small scale miners and have filed a case in court including the apprehension of seven trucks hauling sand and gravel without protective cover,” Sabado added.

According to reports, small scale mining operations are conducted in the far-flung villages of the towns of Quezon, Kasibu, Kayapa, Dupax Del Norte and Alfonso Castañeda.

Particularly in the village of Alimit in Kasibu town and in Didipio which lies along the border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces as well as in the village of Runruno in Quezon town, illegal small-scale operations still abound, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Very recently, the NBI has demolished some 200 small scale mining establishments in Runruno, Quezon confiscating improvised ball mills used in the extraction of gold reportedly with the use of illegal substance besides reported use of illegal explosives in tunnels.

Sabado said various activities are being conducted by the provincial government here in a bid “to regulate small scale mining and quarrying in the province.”

“Initially, we are participating in the consultation and dialogue among small scale miners and local officials of affected local government units,” Sabado said.

He said that aside from the regular meetings of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), a special meeting is on it way to address the concerns of small scale miners in the province who have expressed apprehensions of losing their livelihood in the implementation of said stoppage order.

“We are also looking into an implementation of a concession-based sand and gravel quarrying and issuance of sand and gravel permits,” Sabado added saying that a proposed policy on sand and gravel extraction has also been drafted for integration in the Environment Code and Revenue Code of the province.

Meanwhile, the ENRO is also currently evaluating the updated Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program of the OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) in Didipio village along with their Mine Rehabilitation Program and Mine Decommissioning Plan.

Sabado said the the evaluation will be the bases for the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team in looking into the operations of the project.

OGPI as the mining contractor has been tasked by the national government through a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement To undertake its multimillion-peso project in Didipio which lies along the mountain border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.

After two decades of exploration and construction activities, the project officially commenced commercial operation in April last year. It was expected to produce 100,000 ounces of gold and 14,000 tons of copper per year on average over an estimated 16-year project life.

Very recently, OGPI was awarded by the Bureau of Internal Revenue District Office No. 14 for paying P118.8 million in taxes since it started its commercial operation.

At least two ongoing multibillion-peso mining ventures namely the Didipio Gold-Copper Project of the Melbourne-based OcenaGold Corporation and the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Quezon town of the British-based FCF Minerals Corporation.

These large-scale mining operations have been the subject of a controversy which is apparently the result of the coming up with House Bill No. 3667 or An Act Declaring the Province of Nueva Vizcaya a Mining-Free Zone which is now referred to the Senate for review.

“The bill is to prevent environmental destruction from the harsh effects of mining especially so that the province is considered as watershed area,” said Rep. Carlos Padilla of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya who also sponsored said bill.

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