Monday, 6 February 2012

Governor stops illegal mining in Paracale after mishap

CAMARINES Norte Governor Edgardo Tallado had asked the provincial police to shut down all illegal mining operations in Paracale town after two miners drowned in a seaside mining pit late last month.

Paracale is a gold-rich municipality, 27km northwest of the provincial capital.

Senior Supt Joselito Esquivel, Camarines Norte police chief, sent additional police personnel to Paracale to enforce Tallado’s order.

At about 5pm on Sunday, January 29, two small-scale miners drowned after seawater rushed into a mining pit they dug close to the shore in the coastal village of Palanas, where they had been mining for gold.

Esquivel identified the casualties as Christian Banal and Budo Villanueva (ages yet to be determined by the police).

The two victims were engaged in compressor mining, an illegal mining method, in which miners would use air compressors for breathing underwater while searching for gold ores in water-filled mining pits or among the coral reefs under the sea.

In Paracale, compressor miners usually operated through offshore makeshift mining houses.

Tallado said they had been trying to stop illegal mining operations but some miners had been able to keep the operations going.

Small-scale mining is widespread in Paracale and in Jose Panganiban and Labo towns.

The provincial government in January cancelled the permits of all small-scale mining operations in Camarines Norte, one of the areas in the country that have sizeable minerals, especially gold deposits.

Tallado said stopping dangerous mining operations in the northernmost province of Bicol was a hard decision for him because thousands in the province had small-scale mining as primary source of livelihood.

“It’s like killing them. We cannot sufficiently provide for them once they are cut off from mining. We would need help from the national government,” Tallado said.

Gold-panning, which uses toxic mercury in extracting gold, is also prevalent in Camarines Norte, which is no stranger to mining accidents.

In July last year, two small-scale miners in Labo town also died after the tunnel where they were chipping gold ores collapsed amid a downpour. – Courtesy of Bicol Mail

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