Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has ordered the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Region 12 to immediately close down an illegal small-scale mining operation in Magpet town, Cotabato province.

The mining site is located some 10 kilometers away from the Mt. Apo Natural Park. It has not been declared a minahang bayan or a common area where small-scale miners are allowed to operate.

“Whether big or small, any illegal mining activity will have to stop,” Cimatu said, as he also ordered the filing of charges against those behind the illegal mining activity.

Cimatu’s directive was an offshoot of a joint operation conducted by the DENR, MGB, the local government of Cotabato, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Barangay Don Panaca on Dec. 7.

Acting on a tipoff, the team raided the area and discovered a five-meter tunnel indicating that the mining operation was still in its early stage.

Inside the tunnel were around 25 sacks, each containing approximately 90 kilograms of ore. Another sack was seen along Balingos River located beside the tunnel.

MGB 12 Director Felizardo Gacad Jr. said a cease-and-desist order will be issued against the illegal mining operation, while criminal charges are being readied against the illegal miners and their financiers.

“Records from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board of Cotabato and MGB 12 show that there is no declared Minahang Bayan in the Municipality of Magpet or in the Province of Cotabato, hence, the operation is illegal,” Gacad said.

According to a report prepared by the MGB 12, there was no ongoing mining activity or operation at the time of the raid, but signs of recent extraction were observed.

The report also noted that there was also no heavy mining equipment found in the area, although three shovels and one metal bar were seen outside the tunnel which indicated that the operations were done manually.

The mining operation was a clear violation of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), as well as RA 7076 or the Peoples Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 and its IRR. ###