Town loses water to illegal miners | Inquirer News

Town loses water to illegal miners

/ 02:44 AM November 08, 2013

WATER gushes from the Maputi spring in Rosario, Agusan del Sur, in this photo taken before Oct. 15. CHRIS PANGANIBAN/INQUIRER MINDANAO

ROSARIO, Agusan del Sur—Officials here are pinning the blame for a water shortage gripping this town on the operations of illegal miners.

At least 16 illegal miners are operating here and being tagged as the reason for the drying up of a natural spring from which thousands of households draw water.


Nemesio Taganahan, chief of the local waterworks system, said the mining tunnels are about 400 meters below the ridge where a P47-million World Bank-funded water system development project is located, a spring called Maputi.


Residents expressed surprise when the spring, which supplied the entire town with water, dried up a day after the Oct. 15 7.2-magnitude quake that struck Bohol, Cebu and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

Local officials can’t explain why the spring dried up so suddenly when it was abundant with water before the quake struck.

Taganahan said indiscriminate tree cutting by miners inside the watershed of the spring is a key factor in the drying up of the spring.

Timber from trees cut in the watershed is used by miners as stands in mining portals.

Residents said most of the mining tunnels are allegedly operated or financed by Mayor Jose Cuyos.

Other officials talked about shutting the tunnels down, but no action had been taken.


Fr. Allen Balasabas, parish priest of Rosario, said he, too, had been receiving information that the tunnels are being operated by the mayor.

Cuyos won’t respond to calls or text messages asking for his reaction.

Cuyos, who used to earn a living as a habal-habal driver, rose to popularity here when he made a fortune from mining gold.

Cuyos’ mining company, JTC Mining Corp., has expanded in gold-rush areas in Rosario including near the spring. The municipal environment and natural resources office last year reported the seizure of illegally cut logs in the area.

The drying up of the spring prompted the municipal government to ask the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to investigate and explain the phenomenon to the townsfolk.

Vice Mayor Julie Chua said he suspected that the earthquake triggered major movements in the earth’s crust underneath this town, blocking the flow of water from the underground aquifer.

MGB geologists, however, who came to Rosario to investigate gave different versions of how the spring dried up.

PHOTO of the same spot showing pipes that have stopped releasing water. CHRIS PANGANIBAN/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Taganahan quoted some MGB officials as saying a drought may have caused the spring to dry up. The prolonged absence of rain in the area could have led to the spring drying up, Taganahan said.

“The forest in the ridge serves as a natural reservoir,” Taganahan said.

Noli Arreza, MGB regional director in the Caraga, said he is still awaiting the report of the investigating team.

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Arreza has recommended to local officials in Rosario the declaration of the spring as a protected area to prevent intrusion by mining operators. Chris V. Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao

TAGS: Jose Cuyos, Maputi Spring, MGB, Mining, Rosario, water system

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