Crisscrossing tunnels found in Paracale

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A BOY plays with a banca in Barangay Palanas, a seaside mining community, in Paracale, Camarines Norte, seemingly oblivious of the mining disaster and retrieval operation in one of the thatched structures that house mining pits behind him. JONAS CABILES SOLTES/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

LEGAZPI CITY—Unabated diggings of crisscrossing tunnels by miners seeking gold ore deposits in Paracale, Labo and Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte are invitations to major disasters during extreme weather conditions, said Gilbert Gonzales, regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gonzales said during an interview that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) was still counting the crisscrossing tunnels, including abandoned ones, made by small-scale mining operations. “The data would give us an in-depth study on the dangers posed by the mining operations in the three mining towns,” he said.

Lydia Burburan, DENR Ecosystem Research and Development Services Regional Technical Director, said miners had dug up crisscrossing tunnels ranging from 25 to 100 meters in vertical and horizontal mining shafts. These were discovered during an assessment of small-scale mining operations in the three mining towns in Camarines Norte.

She said the presence of this type of tunnels is a major issue that needs to be addressed by the DENR and provincial local executives. She said small-scale mining operations in the three towns produce 50 tons of gold yearly.

In Paracale, the body of small-scale miner Julian Cabaruvia, 22, floated up a mining pit on Thursday afternoon while another body was also sighted in the same pit that same day in the seaside village of Palanas, just 2 kilometers from the town proper here, the Camarines Norte police said on Friday.

The retrieval of Cabaruvia’s body from a pit around 7 meters away from where a blast was initially reported to have occurred on Wednesday bolstered suggestions that the blast could have pierced neighboring pits submerged in seawater, said Senen Inocalla, administrative aide of Paracale Mayor Romeo Moreno.

As of Friday, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council placed the death toll at three due to the mining accident. The three were Cabaruvia, Luis Policarpio, 33, and Carlo Delos Santos, 27.

Authorities, however, believe more bodies could be trapped amid the rubble and debris that may have prevented bodies from floating up.

Help

Inocalla said rescuers have yet to explore and clear up the area where the accident happened but the municipal government had already asked help from the regional office of civil defense, which sent a team of nine, including technical divers, to oversee the operation on Thursday night.

“The retrieval operation has been hampered by lack of divers and by obstructions, including wood with nails and rock-filled sacks, which were making it almost impossible to go down the mining pits,” she said.

Authorities deemed at least seven mining pits were affected by the blast. The seven were among at least a hundred mining pits, with some exceeding depths of 20 meters, in the seaside community.

She said the local church has  offered help to the municipal government.

Although out of town on an official trip, Moreno had given instructions to continue with the retrieval operation until all bodies were found, she added. Moreno had been criticized for leaving despite an ongoing retrieval operation.

The MGB on Thursday  ordered the total dismantling of the structures in the mine site and urged the enforcement  of a cease-and-desist order earlier issued by local authorities.

Gonzales said there was an order to close down all small-scale mining operations in coastal areas following a “no-mining order” issued by the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to local governments.

He said his office has no hand in the issuance of small-scale mining permits as it is the domain of the provincial government under the Local Government Code.

No one knew the whereabouts of mining financier Agosto Jordan, who allegedly owns the pit where the blast occurred.

Inocalla said because of the accident, the municipal government was bent on stopping all small-scale mining operations in the municipality and the eviction of all miners illegally operating in Palanas and its neighboring village of Malaguit.

“But we anticipate that the move would cripple the already failing economy of Paracale that is heavily dependent on mining,” she said.

Inocalla said  high-grade gold ore deposits in the seaside community has lured townsfolk to the area.

Gov. Edgardo Tallado said  the provincial government has been helpless in stopping illegal mining in Paracale because miners keep on returning despite cease-and-desist orders.

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  • isalexus

    Bunch of idiots!! Small scale mining like this thrive only because there is no other alternative employment opportunity in the country. IT is a form of  “subsistence” mining– unregulated, technically wanting, uneconomic because it is a form of “high grading”. So where are those eco- NGO’s? And I read that the “the local church has offered help to the municipal government”– LOL!! Now that the miners are dead?!?  What kind of help?  Libreng pa-basbas ng mga bangkay bago ilibing?

    • beerhunters

      i thought explosives are not allowed in small scale mining. these small scale miners are the no.1 polluters  of the environment. they just discharge the mercury laden tailings & effluent from their amalgamation process into creeks, rivers and other waterways. their gold recovery method of heating the amalgam in the open just release mercury fumes and vapor into the atmosphere! Calling the attention of Bishop Bastes of Sorsogon, the psuedo environmental crusader and his group, what is your comment on this incident?

  • boybakal

    Paracale mining has been there since Spanish times.
    Continued during American occupation, pre war mining.
    Why I know, I saw the pictures of my father and grandfather together with American miners in Paracale.
    So what is the big fuss about that mining.
    As if you were born yesterday…bunch of idiots.

  • beerhunters

    50 tons of gold produced in the area annually?? Wow!!! this rivals some south african mines in gold production.

  • manuelcdiaz

    The worst mining accident occurred in Paracale when highgraders following a rich gold viens pierced into a river bed flooding the whole underground mine. more than a hundred miners died their bodies was never retrieved.

  • http://twitter.com/CasesKarlo karlo cases arellano

    government should start regulating and limiting small scale mining… but also they should give an alternative source of employment not only in the area but all small scale mining areas.. and maybe clean the waterways and seal of the mines

  • i_am_filipino

    There is a risk of subsidence due to unsupervised or illegal non-approved small scale mining. These holes are being filled with sea water during stormy or rainy weather which gives the effect of the Paracale Town being a floating town thus imposing a greater risk of sinking i.e. subsidence.

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