DAVAO CITY — BALL MILL facilities for gold ore extracted from Mt. Diwalwal in Compostela Valley have been given until this weekend to move out and transfer to a government-designated site as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to rehabilitate the Naboc River.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Chamberlain J. Babiera, in a statement on Monday, said the ball mill operators agreed last month to the issuance of a cease and desist order (CDO) effective March 15.
“We will not be stopping their livelihood; we just want them to continue their operation at the Mabatas area,” he said, where government agencies can more closely monitor their operations.
The operators sought an extension of their stay in Mt. Diwalwal, but the Program Monitoring and Coordination Committee of the National Task Force Diwalwal declined the request, noting that they were already ordered to leave the area more than 15 years ago.
In 2003, then President now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 217, which, among others ordered the transfer of the ball mills to Mabatas as these were polluting the Naboc River with chemicals such as mercury.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said there are about 300 ball mills in the area.
Mr. Babiera said they will strictly implement the transfer and continue to monitor the area to ensure that the CDO is complied with.
“There has to be periodic monitoring on all plants issued with CDO as they might reopen after the issuance,” he said.
He added that the Department of Social Welfare and Development will also assist those who will be affected.
Patrick Kim Evangelio, the provincial government’s trade and industry specialist, earlier said that while gold production has been one of the main sources of livelihood in Compostela Valley, the local government has not been getting the appropriate revenues from the industry.
“Most of the mining activities in the province are small-scale and are not covered with permits. So, aside from not being able to pay their appropriate taxes, stakeholders do not even sell their produce to the legitimate buyer (the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas),” said Mr. Evangelio.
Most of the gold produced by small-scale miners are usually sold in the black market., he added.
A 1998 report by the MGB regional office placed Compostela Valley’s gold deposits at 36, 328,699 metric tons, one of the biggest in the world. — Carmelito Q. Francisco