PMRB probes rampant mercury use among small-scale miners in South Cotabato

April 9, 2011 2:01 am 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, April 8 – The Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of South Cotabato is set to investigate the proliferation and rampant use of mercury among small-scale miners in the province following the noted mercury contamination in some rivers and streams in the province.

South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy Jr., PMRB chair, said Friday they have scheduled a meeting with officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to determine the users and transporters of the toxic substance in the area.

He said the law provides that “any importer, manufacturer, distributor or user of mercury and mercury compounds or transporters, treaters and disposers of mercury-bearing or mercury-contaminated wastes must seek a chemical control order (CCO) issued by the EMB.”

“We’ll check their (EMB) list of users and local sources of mercury so we can trace where these toxic contaminants really come from,” Pingoy said.

The governor said the local government has confirmed the increasing levels of mercury in some rivers in T’boli and Tampakan towns, especially in areas covered by the small-scale mining operations.

The small-scale mining activities in T’boli town are mainly based at the gold rush village of Kematu, where a major river-tributary runs through. In Tampakan, mercury use was earlier confirmed by local officials among the illegal banlas or sluice miners that have been operating in the area.

Constancio Paye Jr., Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 12 director, said he doubts whether illegal miners in the province had been issued with CCOs by the EMB.

Ramon Ponce de Leon, Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) chief, pointed out that the EMB should present the list of all persons or entities in the region that have been using mercury or mercury-containing products, especially in mining operations.

“(But) based on our inspections, we found out that illegal miners in small villages in Tampakan and Tboli towns could afford to obtain mercury even without a CCO,” Ponce de Leon said.

He added that the PMRB has also scheduled a meeting with small-scale miners and processors as part of the proposed creation of a special regulatory body in the province that will monitor the use of mercury and other related products.(PNA) LAP/AVE/AC

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