SURIGAO CITY—The governor of Surigao del Norte expressed alarm over reports of large-scale smuggling of gold out of the province, saying authorities should investigate and put a stop to the illegal extraction and shipment of the highly prized metal.
“Gold bars are being flown to we-don’t-know-where and this is being done without government approval,” said Gov. Sol Matugas.
“The government becomes the loser because it can’t collect taxes,” she said.
Quoting reports from what she said are sources that she can’t identify yet, Matugas said the smuggling of gold out of her province is the work of one mining group.
She declined to say, however, whether the group represented a company or small-scale illegal mining.
Surigao del Norte, dubbed as Asia’s nickel capital, is also home to several small-scale mining groups and large-scale mining firms engaged in gold extraction, most of which are still in exploration stages.
A firm called Greenstone is currently operating and is transporting its first shipment of gold and silver from its Siana gold mine in Tubod town, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Illegal small-scale gold miners, who sell their yield to the black market, also proliferate in Surigao del Norte.
Illegal miners at the Parang-Parang Watershed in Surigao City, for example, said gold buyers here supply chemicals to process ore. One of the chemicals being used is mercury, which has alarmed the local water utility.
Matugas said she has no idea how long the smuggling of gold out of her province has been going on “but we want to check.”
“We need to go deeper,” said the governor.
She said she had checked with one mayor of a town where rampant gold smuggling was reported “but I received no answer” from the mayor.
According to a trade official in the province, workers in the mining industry earned at least P200 million in the last seven months but a very small amount of the money goes back to the province in terms of revenues earned by businesses benefiting from mining.
Celestino Negapatan, head of the Department of Trade and Industry in Surigao del Norte, said more than 10,000 workers are employed in mainly nickel operations in the province.
But local businesses are unable to cash in on the mining bonanza, he said. Workers choose to spend their wages in areas outside the province, like Butuan and Davao City. Danilo V. Adorador III, Inquirer Mindanao