The provincial government of South Cotabato has closed down eight mine tunnels in a gold rush site in Tboli town that were reportedly operating illegally.
Agnes Castanares, environment management specialist of the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), said Monday the move was based on order from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).
Castanares said the tunnels were all located within a declared Minahang Bayan or people's small-scale mining site in Barangay Desawo, Tboli.
The tunnels were operating without licenses and permits, and the ores were even processed on site, she said in a statement.
The closure of the illegal mine tunnels was led by personnel from the PEMO's mine and geosciences division, Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Region 12 and the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion. They were assisted by members of the Desawo Integrated Small-Scale Mining Association Inc. (DISSMAI).
Castanares, who led the PEMO team, said the PMRB had allowed at least 30 mine tunnels operated by members of DISSMAI to operate in the area and were provided assistance to become legal operators.
She said the eight tunnels continued to operate illegally despite the issuance of several notices from the PMRB.
The board, headed by MGB-12, awarded a small-scale mining contract last Oct. 17 to DISSMAI, a mining association mostly composed of Tboli tribal residents. The mining contract covers around 20 hectares of the Minahang Bayan site in Barangay Desawo.
Castanares said South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. earlier ordered the intensified regulation of small-scale mining operations and the crack down all illegal mining activities in Tboli and other parts of the province.
She said the move aims to ensure the implementation of mining regulations and the proper collection of mining-related levies.
As of November, the provincial government already generated at least PHP36 million from quarry and mining taxes, and surpassing last year's collection in the same period last year by about PHP5 million.
Source: Philippines News Agency