Ambalanga River discoloration traced to pocket mining operation

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ITOGON, Benguet – The recent discoloration of the water in the Ambalanga River in Barangay Gumatdang was traced by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) and the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) to the resumption of small-scale mining operations in some areas in the barangay.

MGB-CAR Regional Director Engr. Fay Apil stated that a cease-and-desist order was already issued by the PMRB and the MGB-CAR to the identified pocket mining operator to stop the small-scale mining activities and dismantle the installed ball mills among other ore processing equipment within 10 days from receipt of the said order.

She said that based on the results of the investigation that was conducted in the area, the small-scale mining operator allegedly used cyanide and other banned chemicals in the processing of the ore that had been gathered underground and reportedly discharged the chemical-laced tailings to the river system that caused the water to turn bluish.

The MGB-CAR official claimed that officers and members of the small-scale mining association in the area informed the personnel that they had time and again reminded the said pocket miner to stop his illegal pocket mining activities but he allegedly refused to do so until such time that his activities were reported by barangay officials after the discoloration of the water in the aforesaid river.

However, Apil admitted that the investigation also showed that there were traces of the resumption of small-scale mining activities in the area but the concerned pocket miners were able to move out of their adits after they were reportedly informed of the conduct of the investigation and the arrival of MGB personnel to inspect the area.

According to her, other mining adits were cleared went investigators arrived in the area to show to them that no small-scale mining activity was going on but there were evidences that were gathered indicating that pocket mining activities had been going on in the area over the past several months.

Director Apil disclosed that the small-scale mining operations in the area were also stopped several years ago because of similar offenses, particularly the unabated discharge of their chemical-laced tailings in the river system, before the issuance of the temporary stoppage order by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu right after the tragic landslide incident at Level 070 in Barangay Ucab at the height of Typhoon Ompong in September 2018.

Earlier, Gumatdang barangay officials brought to the attention of Mayor Victorio Palangdan the sudden discoloration of the water in the Ambalanga River which might have been caused by the alleged unscrupulous discharge of chemical-laced tailings coming from the working areas of small-scale miners in various parts of the barangay that prompted the local chief executive to call for an investigation on the cause of the said discoloration of the water in the said river.

Charges for violation of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act, RA 7076 or the Peoples Mining Law and RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act are being studied for filing against the small-scale miner that unscrupulously discharged chemical-laced tailings in the river system. By HENT

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