$18-B WORTH OF GOLD RESERVES IN MT. DIWALWAL UNTAPPED

DAVAO CITY, January 27, 2004 (STAR) By Edith Regalado - An estimated $18 billion worth of gold reserves remain untapped at the gold-rush site in Mt. Diwalwal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri told reporters here.

With the tremendous potential of Mt. Diwalwal, Neri said there is actually enough for all the players, including the thousands of small miners, who have been working in the area since operations started in the early 1980s.

"The area has a very huge potential and could be realized should we allow more exploration. There is no need to fight," Neri said after visiting the mining site Sunday.

He added that the projected exploration could use modern and world-class technology to put order into the almost chaotic diggings of tunnels in the 4,999-hectare mining site.

Neri likewise lamented that government has been getting only ‘loose change’ from the existing scheme. Under the agreement implemented since the later part of 2002, the government gets 15 percent of the revenue from mining activities while 85 percent goes to the miners.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elizea Gozum earlier said the government has so far earned only P27 million since the Natural Mining Resources Development Corporation (NMRDC) took over the operations of Mt. Diwalwal in 2002.

Service contracts in the mining site were awarded to at least 7,000 miners who were allowed to work in the seven tunnels that were opened for exploration.

"It’s just loose change. The government could earn even much, much more," Neri said.

However, legal problems over land disputes continue to beset Mt. Diwalwal. A case is still pending in the Supreme Court between Southeast Mining Corporation and the members of the Monkayo Integrated Small Miners Association (MISMA) involving the rights to the contested 729 hectares in the gold-rush site that was said to be the most productive in the area.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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