CALAPAN CITY—The recent arrest of 19 small-scale gold miners in Puerto Galera shows the seriousness of local authorities in the campaign to stop illegal-mining operations in the province, said Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali.
Aside from an existing 25-year moratorium on large-scale mining in the province, he said he had declared Oriental Mindoro a “no go zone,” which covers even the small-scale mining operations.
“We have warned (the small-scale miners) several times already. If we did not arrest them, they will keep on doing it,” Umali said, in a phone interview, on Wednesday.
Umali was referring to the 19 miners arrested by the police on Feb. 11 in the villages of Tabinay and Dulangan in the province’s tourist capital, Puerto Galera.
Police recovered from them tools and equipment such as generators, pipes and large plastic basins usually used for gold panning.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer Mike Jumig said the miners were charged with illegal exploration, extraction and theft of minerals.
Oriental Mindoro police director Senior Supt. Ronaldo de Jesus described the arrest as one of the largest since they apprehended another group of small-scale miners in the town of San Teodoro last year.
De Jesus said the arrested miners claimed that the tools were used to cover the holes in the soil, “but which they themselves had actually dug up.”
Umali said the crackdown may serve as a deterrent to other miners. “So far they stopped (since Feb. 11), but that doesn’t mean we’re also stopping there,” he said.
The provincial government is also keen about providing alternative livelihood in areas where mining was rampant.