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Gov. Sol orders suspension of small-scale mining operations

Gov. Sol Matugas has ordered the suspension of all small-scale mining and quarry operations in the province due to “rampant violation of environmental laws.”

Matugas said she gave weight to the recommendations made by a multi-sectoral task force, which she formed to assess the environmental impact of small-scale mining and quarry operations in the province.

“As an offshoot of the recommendation of the task force, I ordered an indefinite suspension of all small-scale mining and quarry operations in the province,” she told the Inquirer Monday.

Matugas said with the move, police and other law enforcement agencies were mandated to arrest and file charges against people who would continue mining and quarrying despite her order.

The move, she said, was part of the provincial government’s all-out war against irresponsible mining and quarrying.

Matugas said she hoped that the suspension would pave the way for the rehabilitation of areas damaged by mining and quarrying.

“During its inspection, the task force found massive environmental law violations by mining and quarry operators to the detriment of the environment,” she said.

The suspension order has affected the operation of at least 20 small-scale mining and quarry firms.

During the past months, small-scale mining activities mushroomed in Surigao del Norte, which is rich in gold, nickel, chromite and other minerals.

But Matugas admitted that the order did not cover large-scale mining.

She said the local government lacked the power to regulate, approve or disapprove large-scale mining activities.

“The Mining Act of 1995 diminishes the authority and power of local governments to check multinational firms whose permits were issued by the national government,” Matugas said.

She said this was the main reason she was batting for an amendment to the mining law.

“The Mining Act is anti-autonomy and must be amended because it withholds the power of LGUs to regulate and check violations of large mining firms,” Matugas said.

Asked if her decision to suspend small-scale mining and quarrying could affect investor confidence, Matugas said she believed otherwise. Franklin A. Caliguid/Inquirer

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