Gold plants in Diwalwal to relocatePhilippine Daily Inquirer
DAVAO CITY—The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in southern Mindanao will oversee the pullout of all gold processing plants in Mt. Diwata in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, following the rise in levels of mercury and other toxic substances in Naboc River, a key source of water for farming in the province.
Edilberto Arreza, MGB director, said the ball mills and batch processing plants would be moved to the mineral processing zone in Barangay Mabatas, also in Monkayo.
The relocation to the Mabatas processing zone was necessary, said Arreza. The zone has tailings facilities that can put a stop to the direct discharge of toxic wastes from gold processing into waterways.
The transfer, said Arreza, is the only lasting and long-term solution to the problem of how to handle toxic wastes from gold processing by communities of small-scale miners.
The Mabatas Dam was built with the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC), a government corporation overseeing the operation of small-scale miners in Compostela Valley.
It cost some P20 million and finished in 2003. But it was never used for gold processing by the small-scale miners, who continued to use their facilities in Mt. Diwata, he said.
Arreza said the transfer of the gold processing plants to Mabatas could start as soon as PMDC finishes rehabilitating the dam.
The PMDC is required to rehabilitate the tailings dam facility and develop the mineral processing zone, he said.
Arreza said by then, the MGB would also have completed its information drive among miners on the need to relocate the processing plants.
Unless the plants are transferred, Arreza said the mercury contamination of Naboc River would worsen.
Naboc River supplies irrigation water to rice fields in Compostela Valley.
Arreza said based on recent tests, the river’s total copper content exceeded levels set by the DENR which is 0.05 milligrams per liter (mg/l). The most recent tests made in the river showed that mercury levels there are as high as 1.25 mg/l, a dramatic increase from 0.05 mg/l that was the result of previous tests.
The volume of suspended solids in four monitoring stations was also high although results of tests for cyanide levels showed these to be within limits, Arreza said.
Mt. Diwata has not been declared Minahang Bayan area although small-scale miners operate there under government supervision.
One of the most gold-rich areas in the country, Mt. Diwata also known as Mt. Diwalwal, could not be declared a Minahang Bayan site since it is currently a mineral reservation open to large-scale mining, he said earlier. Ayan Mellejor, Inquirer Mindanao