Northern Mindanao

5 Chinese, 13 others arrested for illegal mining in Cagayan de Oro

Froilan Gallardo

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5 Chinese, 13 others arrested for illegal mining in Cagayan de Oro
Authorities say the illegal miners are caught using high-pressure water jets along the Iponan River at 4 am, suggesting that they have been working in shifts

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines –  Authorities arrested five Chinese men and 13 Filipino workers in a raid by a joint team of law enforcement agents at an illegal gold mining site in the environmentally threatened Iponan River. The weekend raid led to the discovery of deadly mercury.

Felizardo Gacad Jr., the director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) in Northern Mindanao, confirmed on Tuesday, May 16, that mercury was found in a tent used by the miners in Barangay Pigsag-an, Cagayan de Oro.

Gacad said water samples were taken along the Iponan River and other potential mining sites to assess the extent of mercury contamination.

“We need to revisit the site to determine the prevalence of mercury use in these illegal mining operations,” Gacad said.

Mercury is highly hazardous to humans and the environment, particularly when exposed to the toxic chemical. Small-scale miners involved in illegal mining operations use mercury to separate gold from the soil.

A joint team composed of DENR personnel, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents, and Army elite Special Forces conducted the raid at the mining site in the hinterland village of Pigsag-an on Saturday, May 13, based on a tip from a concerned citizen.

Lawyer Michael Pacuribot, the chief of the DENR legal division in the region, identified the Chinese as Mingzhi Meng, Shen Chuangao, Pan Jiquan, Luo Jian Hui, and Yuan Yin Lin.

NBI-X assistant director Norman Decampong said the Chinese did not possess passports and only presented copies of their Alien Certificates of Registration (ACR).

“All five Chinese nationals are from mainland China and can only speak Mandarin,” Decampong said.

The NBI filed eight complaints against the Chinese and the Filipino workers for violating various laws, including the Philippine Mining Act, Small-Scale Mining Act, Presidential Decree on the Water Code of the Philippines, National Pollution Control Decree of the Philippines, Philippine Clean Water Act, Revised Forestry Code, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and Revised Penal Code.

Pacuribot said the raiding team confiscated six excavators, a fuel tanker, a boom truck, a mini dump truck, and various industrial water pumps with an estimated value exceeding P30 million.

According to Army Special Forces Captain Nerbon Estolloso, the team conducted the raid at 4 am on Saturday, catching the Chinese and their group off guard.

“They must have been working in shifts because they were actively operating the high-pressure water jets to dislodge rock material from the Iponan River at 4 am,” Estolloso said. –

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