“I am now directing the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to immediately open a minahang bayan,” Cimatu said before the more than 5,000 small scale miners who attended the dialogue at the DENR-CAR Regional Office on Wednesday, October 17.
This came a month after he ordered the stoppage of all small scale mining operations and activities in the Cordillera region following the killer landslide in Sitio 070, Barangay Ucab in Itogon town during the height of typhoon Ompong last September 15.
Cimatu also directed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to “revisit and validate” all applications for minahang bayan sites across the country to determine their safety against geological hazards.
“We will be stricter in approving Minahang Bayan sites, and affirm whether they conform to standards that are safe especially for the miners,” he said.
Cimatu said that the DENR started the process
Cimatu said the DENR started the initial process of having an 80,000 hectare lot which is proposed to be a minahang bayan site or a zone segregated exclusively for legal small scale mining activities including tunnelling and controlled mineral processing.
The Benguet Corporation which has patent over the land located in Sitio Luneta in Barangay Loacan, has already given its consent to convert the area into a minahang bayan and the DENR already made publication for the use of the lot and no petitions were received in the past 10 days.
It is up to the PMRB to immediately convene and do the proper process and submit necessary documents for it to be declared as a minahang bayan and used by the displaced miners in Itogon, Cimatu said.
He suggested to consider giving tribute and honor to the miners and their families who perished in the Sitio 070, in Ucab landslide by naming the minahang bayan site after them.
Cimatu reiterated that the stoppage order of all small scale mining operations and other activities including ore processing are not yet lifted. He said the lifting of the ban on mining will only come once the minahang bayan would be approved and be declared as such by the PMRB and the DENR.
He clarified that the petition by small scale miners brought by Itogon Mayor Victorio which includes the plea to allow the more than 60,000 sacks of ores to be processed and the giving consent for the gold panning to proceed will be determined by the PMRB as well.
Meanwhile, Cimatu called on the small scale miners to be true to their statement in their petition for the lifting of the ban on mining to ensure a “better, safer and responsible mining in Itogon.”
“Our (mining) associations and the members undertake to comply with regulatory measures your good office and related offices will impose for proper operations. We can enter into a Stewardship Agreement particularly in relation to reforestation and other activities for environmental protection and rehabilitation. We commit to sell our gold to the Central Bank,” read the petition of the Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners Inc. and the other small scale mining association in Benguet which was presented by lawyer Mary Capuyan-Fokno. By Redjie Melvic M. Cawis (JDP/RMC-PIA CAR)