Kids skip classes 1 day a week for miningPhilippine Daily Inquirer
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Schoolchildren in villages near a gold-rich mountain in Maitum, Sarangani, skip classes during Fridays to attend to what they deem is a more important task—hauling soil and stones from mining tunnels.
Maitum Councilor Edgardo del Rosario said in Sitio Kaffugan in Barangay New La Union, for example, children as young as 12 years old troop to mining areas during Fridays just to earn P5 per kilogram of ore they are able to haul.
The stones and soil will be processed in at least three ball mills in Maitum and Kiamba.
In Kipalkuda Elementary School, only a few students attend classes during Fridays since many of the children go to Sitio Kaffugan to work in the mine tunnels, Del Rosario said.
He said aside from children, mining also lured river guides from Barangay New La Union to work in the mines.
“Our tourism here is affected. The number of river guides in New La Union has dwindled. From 34, the number is now down to six,” Del Rosario said.
The river guides are offered P2,000 a month to work in the mining area.
Last week, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo met with local and police officials here to assess the disaster preparedness of local government units in Central Mindanao.
During the meeting, Robredo warned LGUs, police and environment officials of sanctions if they failed to stop illegal logging and mining activities in their areas.
1st Lt. Ferdinand Ragos, of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said despite the warning, illegal small-scale mining continued in the gold-rich mountain in Sitio Kaffugan.
“There are already 18 mine tunnels there,” he said, adding that the identities of the tunnel operators remained a mystery.
Ragos said the Army recently apprehended six illegal miners but they were mum on who their bosses were.
Ragos said the tunnels inside a 3-hectare area in Kaffugan were just 5 to 7 feet away from each other.
“There’s a big possibility that landslide would occur during heavy rains,” he said.
A more serious disaster could be in the offing as soldiers manning a detachment in Kaffugan also noticed a 50-meter-long fissure, measuring 3 inches wide, on the mountain slope where the mining activities are taking place, he said.
The problem, he said, was compounded by the widespread cutting of trees to give way to mining activities. “Some cut trees were used as support structure for the tunnels,” he said.
Del Rosario said another problem that the mining activities brought into New La Union was the division of residents.
“Promining residents are no longer in talking terms with their antimining neighbors,” he said. Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao