Mines bureau recommends lifting suspension for 91 Mayon Volcano quarry operators

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has recommended the lifting of the suspension order against 91 “compliant” quarry operators around Mayon Volcano, while dismissing claims that quarrying activities caused the mudflow or lahar during the onslaught of super typhoon “Rolly” in November.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier suspended all quarry operations around Mayon Volcano and formed a task force to look into the possible liability of quarrying companies in the devastating lahar flow last month.

The MGB is an attached agency of the DENR.

After the probe, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano said 91 quarry operators out of 106 suspended quarry operators were found to be compliant, while the remaining 15 quarry operators were found to have permit violations.

He said the MGB will forward the case of the 15 erring quarry operators to the Environmental Management Bureau for “technical review and possible sanction or payment of penalty.”

He said an immediate rehabilitation of the areas quarried by the violators will also be implemented. 

Citing the result of the investigation, Moncano said there is a compelling need to lift the suspension order insofar as the 91 compliant quarry firms are concerned.

“An increased rate of quarrying is needed to empty and restore the capacity of the river channels, so that when rain comes with eroded material from the slopes of Mayon Volcano, the restored river channel can serve as the pathway to accommodate and remobilize the eroded material,” he explained in a statement on Thursday, Dec. 3. 

He said these companies may be allowed to continue their operations, subject to strict monitoring under the terms and conditions of their existing permits.

“These quarry firms were proven to have followed quarry regulations, such as not operating beyond their permit area and having an active Environmental Compliance Certificate,” Moncano said.

The MGB chief also dismissed claims that quarrying operations around Mayon Volcano was largely to blame for the lahar flooding that buried some 180 houses and killed at least six people at the height of super typhoon Rolly.

He pointed out that lahar flow has “always been a likely occurrence in Mount Mayon whenever there’s heavy rainfall, thus making the houses near the active volcano naturally prone to mudflows.”

“The quarrying has an insignificant contribution to the lahar flow devastation caused by super typhoon Rolly because it was a combination of huge volume of water, combined with stocked lahar that came from the slope and foot of Mayon Volcano,” Moncano added.