By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
IT’S now confirmed: Gold operations in Mambulao and in two other gold districts in CamNore are illegal.
This was revealed in a directive issued recently by Theodore Rommel Pestano, officer in charge regional director of Mines and Geophysics Bureau, to CamNorte Governor Edgardo A Tallado.
Pestano has ordered Tallado to stop issuing temporary small-scale mining permits (TSSMP) to gold miners in the province.
The director said all mining operations covered by Tallado’s permits are illegal under the Executive Order No 79 issued in July 2012 as they are done outside a declared Minahang Bayan, or People’s Small-Scale Mining Area.
Pestano stressed in his directive to Tallado that the SSMPs he issued out did not pass an evaluation process supposed to be carried out by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, which the governor himself appointed.
Until now, there has been no minahang bayan declared in the province, which means all small-scale gold operations in Mambulao, Paracale and Labo are outlawed, Pestano said.
Said gold operators are mostly gold-panners who work under a “financier”, the person who finances the extraction of gold.
In Mambulao, the operators work in farmlands believed to have gold deposits and in seawaters just a few meters offshore, at the back of the municipal hall.
The silt at the bottom of the bay is said to have traces of gold, which the operators are trying to recover using mercury and other means.
Of late, they have been seen operating at a former fishpond area in Sta Milagrosa, a village about 5km from the town proper of Mambulao.
The local government headed by Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla has been trying to discourage gold operators from mining the bay for gold because of the pollution it caused to the bay water.
Gold operators have also invaded many farmlands with gold, destroying the environment by digging up the whole place as they searched for gold
LGU said it has no power to stop them since the job of regulating their activities falls under the office of the provincial governor, in coordination with the mines bureau.
There are about a thousand gold operators in Mambulao, most of them migrants from Bicol and Quezon.