DENR Assistant Secretary Joselin Marcus Fragada said that DENR National Task Force – Mining Challenge(NTFMC) ‘Operation Itogon’ was operationalized last October 8 to 9 to enforce the order of DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu to stop all small scale mining(SSM) activities in the Cordillera region. This is to ensure the safety of miners and residents of the area and to avoid any untoward incident such as the killer landslides that left more than 50 dead in Itogon at the height of typhoon Ompong last month.
Fragada said NTF-MC Operation Itogon deployed more than 300 personnel led by the DENR with its attached agencies, the Philippine Army, Police Regional Office Cordillera, Benguet Provincial Police Office and the Benguet Electric Cooperative(BENECO).
The task force was fielded to at least nine clustered areas where there were initial inventory of SSM operation and processing activities namely Sitio Bacong, Ambuklao Road; Barangay Gumatdang; Hartwell Turning Point and Balatoc Area; Loacan and Antamok; Philex Road; Baguio-Itogon Road, and at the Alphaville in Tuding.
DENR –Cordillera Regional Director Ralph Pablo said the two-day operation was able to shutdown 539 adits or mine tunnels and cordoned 335 ball mills while 64 Carbon in pulp/carbon in leach, 170 leach pad and 33 kilograms of cyanide were seized.
More than 64,000 sacks of mineral ore which were unprocessed and located at the processing areas were also inventoried by the team.
BENECO Engineering Department Manager Melchor Licoben also reported that they have cut at least 366 flying lines which were not declared as part of the residential houses. Most of the flying lines were connected to the ball mills and the mine adits.
The Philippine National Police also apprehended at least four individuals caught in the act of processing ores.
Pablo said that prior to the implementation of ‘Operation Itogon’, the DENR with the Mines and the Geosciences Bureau conducted meeting and dialogue with the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, the Benguet Federation of Small Scale Mining, the local government unit of Itogon and the different line agencies to let them know of the scheduled operation.
They started the operation in Itogon since it was the hardest hit during typhoon Ompong but the implementation of the stoppage of SSM operation and processing is for the entire region. He added that several provinces and municipalities have already stopped SSM operations in their respective areas with the help of the local police.
Pablo clarified that while the NTFMC ended its initial operation, the total ban on all SSM activities remain until it is lifted by Sec. Cimatu or until a minahang bayan would be established. By Redjie Melvic M. Cawis(JDP/RMC-PIA CAR)