PNP intensifies campaign vs blast mining in Masbate

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The open-pit mining operations of Filminera Resources Corp. at Aroroy, Masbate. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO
The open-pit mining operations of Filminera Resources Corp. at Aroroy, Masbate. Photo by BicolToday.com

LEGAZPI CITY (18-Aug-2012/PNA) – Small scale miners in the gold-rich town of Aroroy, Masbate have been resorting to the use of dynamites and the Philippine National Police (PNP) has intensified its campaign to stop the illegal and hazardous practice.

The practice, which according to recent reports is rampant in small gold mining sites in the municipality, is not only life-threatening to miners themselves but also to the environment as it affects ground stability and kills living organisms in the area, Bicol PNP regional director Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here on Friday, said.

The reports came from some residents near the mining sites who are disturbed by the blasts and other people who are wary of its ill effects to the environment and the safety of the miners, according to De los Santos.

He said he had already instructed Masbate provincial police director Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit to totally stop the practice the soonest possible time and the actions taken by the local police have been yielding positive results.

A report submitted to the regional police office over the week by Olitoquit, De los Santos said about a dozen of miners in the area have been arrested and charged in court for illegal possession of explosives.

The Masbate PNP had also been conducting dialogues with the miners and suspected supplies of the explosives to warn them of the consequences of violating the law on its use, possession and selling and its bad effects, De los Santos said.

The campaign against blasting in small mining sites, he explained is under Executive Order No. 79 issued by President Benigno Aquino III which provides for new regulations covering small-scale mining operations.

Miners in Aroroy are using dynamites to blast to pieces rocks to recover raw gold ore particles embedded in it.

Records of the Masbate provincial government have it that there are around 20,000 individuals in Aroroy that are engaged in small-scale gold mining activities and most of them are illegal, being not registered and not in possession of permits from the local government.

Aroroy is considered as one of the richest in the country in terms of mineral resources that include gold, copper, silver, iron, manganese and chromites. Small-scale mining for gold and manganese in the area is said to be an over a billion-peso a year industry.

The Masbate provincial government under Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete is initiating measures for the legalization of operations to be able to collect taxes from its operators and so that they are placed under the jurisdiction of the local government which should monitor their activities.

De los Santos said the local PNP is helping the provincial government in legalizing the operations of all the small mining activities in the province not only for tax collection purposes but for life and environmental conservation.

On the part of law enforcement particularly against the use of explosives, a total ban had already been put in place by the local police, he added.

On the part of the provincial government’s effort to collect revenues from these ventures, Lanete has earlier said that it is only these small-scale mining activities that the local government could place it hands on as the large scale operations fall under the control of the national government, leaving its host governments only pittance out of its share from taxes and duties.

The governor was referring to the Masbate Gold Project (MGP) of the Australian-owned Filminera Resources Corporation (FRC) and the Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corporation (PGPRC) that covers a 13,000-hectare of gold-rich upland property in Aroroy.

Big mining companies in the Philippines, the FRC among them, remit to the government a very low share of two percent for extracting natural wealth and only 40 percent of this goes to the host local governments or communities, she said.

FRC acquired the MGP in 2007 to become the largest operating gold project in the Philippines, being successful in developing the area pouring during its first year of operations as of May 2009 over 150,000 ounces of gold out of the site’s total indicated resource base of 4.55 million ounces, total inferred resources of 3.22 million ounces and a probable mining reserve of 3.03 million ounces.

As of May 2008, records of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional office here say the mine has 135.33 metric tons (mts) at 0.96 gold per ton (g/t) of indicated resources, including 127.15 mts. with 0.79 g/t of inferred resources. These figures reflect an increase of 62 percent from the time of acquisition by the FRC.

In the whole of 2010, the MGP produced some 141,000 ounces (4,000 kilograms) of gold and about 113,000 ounces (3,200 kgs) of silver for a total gross production gain of P6.9 billion

In a steady state, the project is forecast to produce some 200,000 ounces in average yearly gold output over the first eight years of the mine’s life.

A report of the MGB said MGP yielded a total of 2,770.921 kilograms of gold valued at over P5.6 billion and some 2,166 kilograms of silver at around P105.4 million for a gross production worth P5.7 billion during the first half of 2011.

The company also enjoys many attractive incentives from the Philippine government including an initial six year income tax holiday. The excise tax rate is 2 percent on gross revenue. (PNA)

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