3 foreign firms sued for illegal mines

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11:20 PM November 27th, 2012

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November 27th, 2012 11:20 PM

UNABATED illegal mining continues in the interior part of Iponan River in Cagayan de Oro City, giving its water a murky orange look. Firms owned by Chinese and Koreans have been tagged responsible for the environmental destruction. RICHEL V. UMEL/INQUIRER MINDANAO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Four companies issued quarry permits by the city government to extract sand and gravel in the hinterland Iponan River were actually mining for gold, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Cases of mineral theft, illegal exploration and disobedience to persons of authority have been filed against KFNET, Philippine Long Sangda Corp., South Ocean Mining Corp. and Yellow Stone Minerals and Development Corp., said Rex Monsanto, the bureau’s regional chief.

Except for the Filipino-owned Yellow Stone Minerals and Development Corp., the mining firms are operated by either Chinese or Korean nationals.

Mining in the river has been blamed for the environmental destruction and siltation of the waterway. In December last year, when Tropical Storm “Sendong” suddenly struck the city, the Iponan overflowed and flooded low-lying barangays, killing close to 2,000 people in the city and neighboring Iligan City.

Monsanto said the firms had been using their dredging barges along the Iponan River in the city’s upland area for gold-mining activities. The barges have been abandoned by the miners since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) filed the cases early this month.

Councilor President Elipe, chair of the city council’s committee on environment, said only quarry permits had been issued to the companies. He earlier denied the existence of mining in the river.

Last month, authorities arrested two Chinese nationals who operated in the Iponan River using four barges. The city prosecutor’s office, however, dismissed the cases filed against the Chinese, saying the DENR was not a party to the filing of the charges.

The Higaonons, an indigenous group of people in Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon that has been living along the river, are asking Mayor Vicente Emano and Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno to allow them to use the abandoned barges for their own sand and gravel extracting operations.

Datu Kadayunan Melenio Minister said the leaders of the Office of the Higaonon Tribal Association Administrative Council of Datus signed a resolution appealing to the mayor to allow the tribe to operate its own sand and gravel business.

The group said it could earn money making hollow blocks and selling gravel for road improvement projects in inner barangays.

An environmental group, Sulog, is seeking a moratorium on all extractive activities in the river.

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