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Illegal mining site in Cotabato ordered closed

DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has ordered the closure of a small-scale mining site illegally operating in Magpet, Cotabato.

The said mining site is located some 10 kilometers away from the Mt. Apo Natural Park. It has not been declared a minahang bayan or a common area where small-scale miners are allowed to operate.

Cimatu issued the order following a joint operation conducted by the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Cotabato local government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Barangay Don Panaca on Dec. 7.

Whether big or small, any illegal mining activity will have to stop,” Cimatu said, as he also ordered the filing of charges against those behind the illegal mining activity.

During the operation, the team discovered a five-meter tunnel indicating that the mining operation was still in its early stage.

Inside the tunnel were around 25 sacks, each containing approximately 90 kilograms of ore. Another sack was seen along Balingos River located beside the tunnel.

MGB 12 Director Felizardo Gacad Jr. said a cease-and-desist order will be issued against the illegal mining operation, while criminal charges are being readied against the illegal miners and their financiers.

Records from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board of Cotabato and MGB 12 show that there is no declared minahang bayan in the Municipality of Magpet or in the Province of Cotabato, hence, the operation is illegal,” Gacad said.

According to a report prepared by the MGB 12, there was no ongoing mining activity or operation at the time of the raid, but signs of recent extraction were observed.

The report also noted that there was also no heavy mining equipment found in the area, although three shovels and one metal bar were seen outside the tunnel which indicated that the operations were done manually.

The mining operation is a clear violation of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), as well as RA 7076 or the Peoples Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 and its IRR.