Government officials are trying to avert a “gold rush” in a remote barangay in Siaton, Negros Oriental.

This was after the reported presence of raw gold traces in the area that could attract the attention of enterprising businessmen or individuals who could endanger the lives of small-scale miners.

Gov.  Roel Degamo and Siaton Mayor Albert Ator announced Wednesday the suspension of illegal quarrying operations at the “placer deposit” site in Siaton to prevent loss of lives as in the January 5, mining disaster in Compostela Valley.

The mayor said, he had received reports of small-scale gold mining activity in Catipon,  but had not taken action until some people showed him “evidence” of the precious metal extracted in that sub-village from that place.

 During an inspection, the mayor, Philippine National Police personnel, representatives from the town’s engineering and environment departments and the media, were met by residents who confirmed that gold dust and small nuggets were being extracted from the mountainsides and a stream bed.

Unverified reports said that at least two people are claiming ownership of the land on the mountain slope but their identities have yet to be established.

So far, there have been no reported trouble among the small-scale miners in what is now believed to be a free-for-all gold panning area in Catipon but officials are anticipating a rush of people coming to the area that search for gold.

Meanwhile, a geologist based in Dumaguete who declined to be identified, said gold panning is not of lucrative commercial venture as it only yields gold dust, tiny nuggets and unrefined gold embedded in rocks.

However, she said, it can also be used to trace possible larger parent veins of gold but this would entail high costs and advanced technology for an investor to embark on large-scale gold mining.

Residents of Catipon and small-scale miners have heeded the call of the government officials to halt their gold panning activity without a legitimate permit, required by in Republic Act 7076 or An Act Creating A People’s Small-Scale Mining Program.

Siaton Mayor Albert Ator will meet next week with the small-scale miners, ownership claimants of the quarry site and government officials on the gold extraction activities in Catipon.* JFP