May 18, 2024

The Provincial Mining Regulatory Board has urged the cooperation of small-scale mining groups and local government units in the strict monitoring of mining activities following the discoloration of the Ambalanga River in Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet. 
PMRB-Benguet Chair and Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera head Fay Apil said they notify barangay and municipal governments concerned every time the agency issues stop orders to illegal miners and processing plants.
The PMRB-Benguet technical working group has recommended there should be a continuous monitoring and full enforcement of the stoppage orders issued to all small-scale mining groups operating in the municipality.
On Jan. 7, the PMRB investigated the complaint by concerned residents of Gumatdang on the discoloration of Ambalanga River on Jan. 6.
The group noted there were fresh processed tailings along the tributary creek while a number of small-scale processing plants including ball mills, carbon-in-pulp tanks and leach pads were found upslope.
“These are mostly located near the river banks with signs of direct discharges of processed tails to the river stream,” the report stated.
Upon investigation, the source of the illegally discharged processed water and tails that caused the water discoloration was traced to Anselmo Bagidoldon. The latter, according to the report, denied conducting the processing and illegal discharge of the processing tailings.
He said he has released impounded water, which could have possibly washed out some of the old impounded tails downstream causing the water discoloration into bright blue.
“There were some who chanced upon small-scale miners in the area but no active SSM operations were noted during the time of inspection. It is apparent that most of the SSM operators were alarmed by the water discoloration hence, forewarned to voluntarily shut down their operations,” the report read.
Water sampling was conducted by the Environment and Management Bureau-Cordillera to determine the presence of cyanide and other chemicals. 
The team issued a stoppage order against Bagidoldon and others for operating without the necessary permits.
The team also recommended the inventory of all processing plants within the area and the eventual demolition of all the illegal small-scale processing plants.
Apil said the PMRB and MGB are bent on assisting the small-scale miners in their application for minahang bayan for their operation to be fully legalized.
This is the second reported water discoloration of the Ambalanga River. A similar incident happened in October 2017, which resulted in the inventory of all SSM processing plants in the area and the subsequent issuance of stoppage orders to the SSM operators in the area. 
The closure order of the DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to all SSM operations in the Cordillera in 2018 is still in effect. – Ofelia C. Empian