Philippines: more 'cold war' conflict over miningPublished by MAC on 2014-07-01
Source: Manila Times, Mindanews, statement, GMA News (2014-06-28)
The Phillipines Presidential Office conitnues dithering over how it will treat the country's mining industry (see: A taxing time for Philippines mining) as the background conflict between the judiciary, local government, and the companies rumbles on.
The Supreme Court has disqualified three subsidiaries of Canadian MBMI Resources for violating the 60-40 percent constitutional ownership limit for foreign mining companies.
The municipal government of Claver in Surigao del Norte has cancelled the controversial permit granted to Taganito Mining for non-payment of business tax.
Other local government units and citizens are celebrating the suspension of controversial coastal black-sand mining licenses.
However, it's not all bad news for mining companies: a Manila-based court has over-ruled the suspension of Citinickel's Pulot mine in Palawan, despite a recent silt spill.
In the Cordillera, the Pollution Adjudication Board has permitted Philex mining to fully re-open its Padcal mine after the huge taillings pond spill in 2012, and Philex is planning to proceed with construction of the Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte.
Medusa's Co-O mine in eastern Mindanao has claimed another worker's life in a further accident.
On the positive side, Kalinga's small-scale miners are now using 95% mercury-free methods of extraction.
Supreme Court bars 3 foreign mining firms
by Jomar Canlas
29 June 2014
THREE mining companies have been disqualified by the Supreme Court (SC) from exploiting the country's natural resources for violating the 60-40 ownership limit dictated by the law.
The tribunal's Third Division, through a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., ruled that Narra Nickel Mining and Development Corp., Tesoro Mining and Development Inc. and McArthur Mining Inc. are disqualified from operating in the Philippines in view of their violation of the 60-40 percent ownership limit for foreign mining companies.
The three mining firms are owned by MBMI Resources Inc., a 100-percent Canadian company.
Under the law, companies engaged in exploration and development of natural resources should be 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens or corporations.
The ruling was concurred in by Justices Diosdado Peralta, Jose Catral Mendoza and then- Justice Roberto Abad. Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen dissented. Abad retired in May this year.
The mining permit given to Narra, Tesoro and McArthur in 2006 covers about 12,100 hectares in Palawan.
"We of this court note that a grave violation of the Constitution, specifically Section 2 of Article XII, is being committed by a foreign corporation right under our country's nose through a myriad of corporate layering under different, allegedly, Filipino corporations," the tribunal said.
"The intricate corporate layering utilized by the Canadian company, MBMI, is of exceptional character and involves paramount public interest since it undeniably affects the exploitation of our country's natural resources," it pointed out.
"Finally, the instant case is capable of repetition yet evading review, since the Canadian company, MBMI, can keep on utilizing dummy Filipino corporations through various schemes of corporate layering and conversion of applications to skirt the constitutional prohibition against foreign mining on Philippines soil," the ruling said.
In antecedents of the case, Redmont Consolidated Mines Corp. in 2006 sought to explore some areas in Palawan but it was found out that these areas had pending applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) under Narra, Tesoro and McArthur.
Redmont then lodged a case before arbitrators of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) against the three mining companies in view of an existing constitutional prohibition against foreign firms.
The DENR arbitrators ruled on December 14, 2007 that Narra, Tesoro and McArthur are disqualified from engaging in mining activities in the country. The MPSAs of the three firms were then invalidated and Redmont's application for exploration permit was recognized.
The three companies elevated the case to judicial courts in 2008.
"After a scrutiny of the evidence extant on record, the court finds that this case calls for the application of the Grandfather Rule since, as ruled by the [arbitrators] and affirmed by the [Office of the President], doubt prevails and persists in the corporate ownership of petitioners," the High Court said.
"Also as found by the Court of Appeals, doubt is present in the 60-40 Filipino equity ownership of petitioners Narra, Tesoro and McArthur, since their common investor, the 100 percent Canadian corporation-MBMI-funded them," the SC said.
Surigao Norte LGU refuses to issue biz permit to mining firm for failure to pay taxes
By Roel Catoto
16 June 2014
CLAVER, Surigao del Norte - Until today the municipal government of Claver in Surigao del Norte has not issued a business permit to a mining firm because the company failed to settle its business tax.
Claver Mayor Eddie P. Gokiangkee said the Taganito Mining Corporation has an outstanding balance of almost half a billion pesos.
Based on the document obtained by MindaNews June last year, the company already had an outstanding balance tax of P371.2 million.
Gokiangkee said the taxes due since 2001 have now ballooned to more than P400 million.
In a letter addressed to Engr. Jose B. Anievas, vice president for operation of TMC, the municipal government asked the mining firm to pay their taxes "the soonest time possible to avoid any inconvenience that may occur as a result of distraint or seizure of your property."
The mayor said they are now contemplating to file charges against TMC to force it to stop operations.
The local government is bent on collecting taxes from all business establishments in Claver, saying it is the lifeblood of the local government.
MindaNews has been seeking TMC management's comment on the since last year but no to avail. TMC community relations officer Cecile Bayas told MindaNews last week that she will arrange an appointment with management but has no updates as of press time.
Gokiangkee said he admired the small businessmen in town for paying their taxes and expressed dismay over TMC even as the mining firm continue to destroy the mountains and polluting the water bodies.
"Even the small stores pay their taxes, yet this mining firm that has destroyed the environment refused to pay," he lamented.
TMC is currently mining nickel ore for shipment to Japan.
Earlier this year, the Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC) also failed to get its business permit in Claver, Gokiangkee said. The company has an outstanding balance of P57 million, but PGMC initially paid P7 million last March and promised to pay the rest of its unpaid business tax later this year.
Citinickel and Philex: latest cases of impunity in big mines
Letter to the editor from Kalikasan-PNE
18 June 2014
Two recent incidents involving large-scale mines reminded us once again of the impunity of destructive big mining projects in the Philippines.
The first is instructive of why large-scale miners are a long-standing bane to the Philippine environment. The Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation, owned by holding firm Oriental Peninsula Resources Group operating in Sofronio Espanola town in Southern Palawan, figured yet again in a massive mine tailings spill last June 5-which, ironically, coincided with World Environment Day.
We have warned Citinickel and Palawan government officials of these risks years ago. In an environmental investigative mission (EIM) in Sofronio Espanola that we organized last December 2012, we already observed siltation in both the Pasi and Pulot Rivers, exactly the two rivers that were inundated by massive discoloration and sediment build-up in this latest spill.
We also expressed deep concern over Citinickel's tailings facilities, which appeared to be only 4 feet-deep shallow holes in the topsoil. It was no wonder when residents shared that spilling were already evident as early as during the rainfall events of the August 2012 monsoon winds.
Citinickel's other mine project in Narra Town figured earlier in a spilling incident and was briefly suspended and consequently fined for it. Despite this track record and our repeated warnings, Citinickel did nothing to address the risk. Now our fears were realized.
The second incident is instructive of why these big mines, despite consistently figuring in environmental crimes, remain at large. Philex Mining Corporation, which caused a 20.6-million metric ton mine spill disaster in early August 2012, the biggest in Philippine history, will soon be resuming its operations after paying a measly P188.6 million in environmental fines to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) just last June 6. It should be noted that this was already the 4th mine spill incident that involved Philex.
The PAB's fine was supposedly for Philex's discharge of ‘nontoxic water and sediment,' based on the effluent and water testing that they conducted from March 14 to 15 in 2013. How can this be when independent laboratory tests on the tailings and water samples, retrieved during a quick-response EIM we held from October 26 to 28 in 2012, revealed the prevalence of various toxic heavy metals including Copper, Zinc, Arsenic and Cobalt?
In fact, Copper levels, the most prevalent heavy metal that registered high concentrations in the junction of the affected Balog and Agno Rivers, were 4.5 times above the threshold limit. How is that nontoxic?
Granted, Philex scrambled in its rehabilitation and cleanup activities between September 29, 2012 and March 7, 2013. Does it erase the fact that massive amounts of the tailings indeed resulted in the immediate biological death of Balog River, and that heavy metal contamination did occur? Those incidents had lasting effects to the lives and livelihood of thousands of grassroots communities, not only in the immediate vicinity of the spill, but especially in the areas downstream of Agno River. Remember, the tailings spill even reached the San Roque Dam.
These mine spills are a direct result and clear proof of the anti-people and anti-environment mining policy of the Aquino government. At the same time, the collaborationist treatment of the Aquino government to the cases of Citinickel and Philex shows how it sacrifices environmental safety and people's welfare for the interest and benefits of big business polluters. Clearly, there is no hope for environmental justice under Aquino.
KALIKASAN PEOPLE'S NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756
Pollution Adjudication Board allows Philex to resume normal operations at Padcal
18 June 2014
Philex Mining Corporation was given the green light by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) to resume regular operations over at the Padcal copper-gold mine in Itogon, Benguet for completing the rehabilitation of the waterways that were affected by a massive tailings spill in August 2012.
Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary for Policy and PAB presiding officer Demetrio Ignacio said all water samples from the Agno River and Balog Creek are now within the water quality standards acceptable to the government.
He was citing a report by the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) in the Cordillera region which gave the waterways affected by the tailings spill a clean bill of health.
"The waterways are now cleared of silt, Ignacio told reporters Wednesday. "The water quality is also now within the standards set by the government," he said.
"The undersigned hereby issues a formal lifting order in favor of the respondent. This shall effectively remove this case from the dockets of the Pollution Adjudication Board without prejudice to future action(s) that may be commended against respondent as may be warranted by circumstances or by law," according to a June 9 resolution issued by PAB.
On June 5, Philex also settled a fine of P188.6 million for violating the Clean Water Act.
In August 2012, a tailings pond at Padcal caved in at the height of enhanced monsoon rains and released more than 20 million tons of mine waste that polluted Agno River and Balog Creek.
For the accident, the government also imposed a penalty of more than P1.03 billion, which Philex settled in February 2013. - VS, GMA News
Manila court stops MGB from suspending Citinickel's mining operations in Palawan
24 June 2014
MANILA - A unit of Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc (ORE) has secured a court order, stopping the government from suspending the company's operations at 2 mining sites in Palawan.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, ORE said Citinickel Mines and Development Corp (CMDC) won a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) from Branch 22 of the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Issued last June 17, the TRO stops the Mines and Geosciences Bureau's (MGB) Region IV-B office from enforcing a s suspension order covering CMDC's mining sites in the towns of Sofronio Espanola and Narra.
Last June 13, MGB issued an order suspending indefinitely CMDC's mining operations covered by the company's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) No. 229-007-IVB. The agency also recalled the company's mineral ore export permits.
The June 13 order superseded an earlier directive issued on June 10 that covered only CMDC's operations in Sofronio Espanola. The suspension order was issued after a June 5 waste spill at the said mining site that, according to MGB, polluted the Pasi and Pulot rivers.
In issuing the TRO, the Manila court cited MGB's alleged failure "to consider [CMDC's] letter-explanation as well as all remedial measure it has already undertaken to address the situation."
The court also cited MGB's failure to cite specific provisions of Republic Act No. 7942 that the company violated, as well as to present proof that sediments found in the 2 rivers came from the mine site.
ORE said the legal case will "have an effect on its continuous business operations," adding that, "CMDC has definitely incurred losses but the amount of which as of the time being is in the process of determination."
ORE saw its net income drop 30 percent to P135.9 million in the first three months of the year from P196.9 million in the same period last year. This after gross revenue fell by 26 percent to P483.5 million this year from P654.9 million in 2013.
Oriental Peninsula to comply with gov't on latest Palawan mine spill
17 June 2014
MANILA, Philippines - Listed miner Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc. (ORE) said Tuesday, June 17, it would comply with all the remedial measures ordered by the government within a month to resume operations of its Pulot nickel mine in Palawan.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has indefinitely suspended the nickel mining operations of its unit Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC) in the municipality of Sofronio Espanola, Palawan following a silt spill.
The spill occurred in the company's Pulot mine on June 5 due to the breaching of its siltation control facilities. This resulted in the "massive" discoloration of runoffs and deposition of lateritic sediments along the stretch of Pasi River to Pulot River, as described in a suspension order on June 10, MGB Director Leo Jasareno said.
Based on the initial report of the technical personnel, the breached portion of the siltation pond has not yet been repaired and traces of laterite sediments are still found in the rivers, Jasareno said.
"In view of the foregoing, your mining operations at Barangay Pulot, Sofronio Espanola, Palawan is hereby suspended indefinitely," the MGB said in the order addressed to CMDC President Ferdinand Pallera.
The order takes effect immediately and to be enforced until the company institutes remedial measures to contain the spill.
Oriental Peninsula said the concerns raised by the MGB could be resolved within a month.
"The company is expected to resolve the issues raised by the MGB within one month or less," the company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.
CMDC has already incurred losses for each day of non-operation, the amount of remains to be determined, the company added.
Previous silt spill
A similar silt spill occurred in the company's other nickel mine in Palawan.
In November 2012, the company's Toronto nickel mine in Narra, Palawan suffered a silt spill that contaminated the Pinagduguan River. At least 6.8 hectares of farmlands were also affected by the spill.
However, unlike the mine spill in Padcal that Philex Mining Corp. said was caused by force majeure, the Citinickel incident in Palawan was due to the mine's lapses, the government's investigation showed.
The spill in the Toronto mine occurred due to lapse in judgment of the mine foreman who drained silt into an old and non-serviceable sump, leading to outflowing of water and sediment to the river.
The company settled penalties worth P375,000 and suffered suspension of operations between Nov. 26, 2012 to Dec. 9, 2012.
During the suspension period, the company conducted both manual and mechanical dredging of the deposited silt and restored the quality of water in the waterways to government-acceptable standards.
An additional silting pond was also constructed to prevent the reoccurrence of a similar accident.
ORE previously said that it is targeting to put up more nickel-iron mines over the next 5 years.- Rappler.com
Philex eyes open-pit method for $1.5bn mine project
25 June 2014
MANILA - Philex Mining Corp, the Philippines' top gold and copper producer, is looking to reduce the cost of its $1.5-billion Silangan project by as much as two-thirds via the use of open-pit mining, its chairman said on Wednesday.
The move could meet opposition from environmental groups which say the extraction method is harmful to the environment because of toxic tailings produced, even if current laws allow for open pit mining.
A ban on open pit mining by a local government has stalled a $5.9 billion copper-gold project in southern Philippines, with major investor Glencore Xstrata looking to sell its stake.
"We are looking at whether we are still going underground. The rocks are extremely tough and there is a lot of water underneath," Philex Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said. "We're looking at the possibility of open pit for Silangan."
Operational problems related to digging had earlier prompted Philex to jack up Silangan's cost by $500 million to $1.5 billion, and push back the start of production by more than a year to 2018.
Open pit mining "could bring the mine into operation, say, by 2018," Pangilinan told reporters after the company's annual meeting with stockholders.
The Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte in southern Philippines, with estimated reserves of 9 billion pounds of copper and 9 million ounces of gold in its 25-year mine life, represents Philex' biggest prospect after its Padcal mine in northern Philippines ceases to operate, possibly by 2020. (Reporting By Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Michael Urquhart)
Philex Mining gives Silangan copper-gold prospect bulk of P4-B capex
By Danessa O. Rivera
25 June 2014
Philex Mining Corp. is allotting P4 billion in capital expenditures this year, bulk of which will be given to the pre-development of Silangan copper-gold project in Surigao del Norte while the balance will cover the operating costs of Padcal mine in Benguet and other exploration expenses, its top official said Wednesday.
"Bulk of [the capex] or P3.2 billion will be devoted to the development of Silangan mine and about P600-P800 million for Padcal and exploration expenses," chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters after the company's stockholders' meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Quezon City.
The budget for Padcal can be financed through operational cash flows, but funding for Silangan may require other sources.
"There'll be a bit of borrowing this year. Silangan mine is a big number for Philex, so we may have to borrow," Pangilinan said.
Philex Mining is pre-developing the Silangan copper-gold mine in Surigao del Norte through wholly-owned subsidiary Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. Inc. The project is expected to go into commercial production by 2018.
CEO Eulalio Austin told stockholders the pre-feasibility for Silangan will start next July and the company is expects results to be "higher than Padcal mine."
The study will determine if Philex would need a partner for the project, and if open-pit mining is better than underground mining, Pangilinan noted.
"We might need a partner because it is a big mine," he said in the vernacular, noting they will wait for results of the pre-feasibility study before talking to possible partners.
"We're looking at the possibility of open-pit in Silangan. There's a team studying that to bring operations by say, 2018," Pangilinan added.
Open-pit mining would entail huge savings for the company, compared with underground mining. The company pegged underground mining to cost between $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion.
"At least in first phase... first eight years, it will be significantly lower than underground... About roughly a billion if we go open-pit," Pangilinan said.
For Padcal mine, the company is also studying the possibility of extending the mine life beyond 2020.
"Survey efforts are being done to determine additional resources. I believe there's a good chance we can discover more resources out there in Padcal," Pangilinan said.
"We're optimistic the mine life can be extended beyond 2020. Right now mine life is estimated to last until 2020," he added.
In a June 9 resolution, the Pollution Adjudication Board gave the Philex Mining the green-light to resume operations over at the Padcal in Itogon, Benguet after rehabilitating the waterways that were affected by a massive tailings spill in August 2012.
On June 5, Philex Mining paid a P188.6-million penalty for violating the Clean Water Act of 2004, which is on top of the P1.034 billion the company settled with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in February 2013 for violating the 1995 Mining Act.
In August 2012, a tailings pond at Padcal caved in at the height of enhanced monsoon rains and released more than 20 million tons of mine waste that polluted Agno River and Balog Creek.
The government also imposed a penalty of more than P1.03 billion, which was settled in February 2013. - VS, GMA News
Co-O claims another life - Medusa
By: Esmarie Swanepoel
26 June 2014
PERTH (miningweekly.com) - Gold miner Medusa Mining has reported another fatality at its Co-O mine, in the Philippines.
The miner said on Thursday that an investigation had revealed that the accident was caused by gross negligence on the part of the victim, who had breached standard safety regulations.
The company did not reveal how the fatal accident occurred, but said that the mine continued to be fully operational.
This latest fatality followed another accident in February this year, when a contract miner was fatally injured by a falling rock while cleaning an ore pass at the Co-O underground mine.
Kalinga's small-scale miners now employ mercury-free methods
Written by Marilou Guieb, Correspondent
20 June 2014
SMALL-SCALE miners in the village of Ga-ang in Kalinga are now 95 percent operating without the use of mercury. This translates to the non-release of at least two tons of toxic mercury during the mining process.
This was disclosed by the environment group Ban Toxics (BT) as part of its three-year intervention from 2011 to 2014 in Kalinga, a province of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), to use Mercury-free methods in processing gold.
The activity is part of BT's Elimination of Mercury in Artisanal Small-Scale Mining (ASGM) Program. BT said this provides proof that given the proper training, information and assistance, small-scale miners will forego the use of mercury.
In a program on June 17 with the theme "Kayang kaya ng maliliit na minerong Pilipino!" (The Filipino small-scale miner can!), invited local miners and BT staff shared their experiences in introducing mercury-free mining methods to the small-scale miners of Ga'ang. A key to this success was the transition of the Banao Tribe to mercury-free mining.
"The success of our efforts would not be possible without the miners' openness to change, the local government's support and the wisdom of the elders of the Banao-Bodong Association [BBA] to understand the problem and act on it," BT Executive Director Richard Gutierrez said.
In addition to providing technical training to miners, BT assisted the BBA in amending their rules that explicitly bans the use of mercury in Ga'ang. For its part, the local government of Kalinga also passed an executive order in 2013 that prohibits the use of mercury in all mining activities. Mercury use in small-scale mining was banned by Executive Order 79 in 2012.
In a press statement, BT said United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Unido) National Program Officer Teddy Monroy was present at the event on behalf of Unido Country Representative Fakhruddin Azizi. The Unido and BT, together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Health, and international partners Dialogos and the US Department of State, launched a project in 2013 in Pasil, Kalinga to complement the success in Ga'ang.
"The objectives of the project are aligned with the Unido's vision of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development by creating shared prosperity and safeguarding the environment," Monroy said.
"The BT program of activities in Kalinga shows that this vision is achievable and the Unido fully supports these initiatives. Rest assured that the Unido will continue to support the Philippine government and its development programs for the long-term benefit of the Filipino people," he said.
The Ga'ang miners are now using the Benguet method, an enhanced traditional technique utilizing gravity and borax predominantly used in Benguet, and has been popularized by BT in the Philippines and in other parts of the world.
"Our Kalinga experience is proof that the Pinoy small-scale miners will go away from mercury if they are given the proper knowledge, tools, training and support" Gutierrez said.
Mercury has been used by miners all over the Philippines with no precautionary measures to protect them, their communities and the environment. In 2011 a test conducted by the Research and Development and Laboratory Services Section of the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) found there is a significant amount of mercury present in Chico River. The BT statement said according to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Program, artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the single largest mercury-emitting sector in the world. The DENR-EMB estimates the annual mercury discharge in the Philippines at around 70 metric tons.
The Ga'ang project was launched in 2010 and was done in partnership with Dialogos, University of Copenhagen, GEUS and ICOPEH.
BT promotes environmental justice in the Philippines and the Asian region to ensure that developing countries in the region do not bear a disproportionate burden of pollution coming from developed countries.
Cagayan rejoices over black sand mining suspension
by Liezle Basa Inigo
27 June 2014
Buguey, Cagayan - Three towns of Cagayan - Aparri, Buguey and Lallo - are elated after Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) national office suspended the Minerals Processing and Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of mining companies which had been extracting black sand minerals in the area in the northeast of Luzon.
Rosbin Martin, leader of Alliance for Buguey Committed for Development Association (ALBUCODA), one of the people's organizations (PO) that spearheaded the fight against mining in Buguey, said in a telephone interview they are now celebrating.
"Labis ang aming kasiyahan at sa loob ng ilang taon na aming pag-aantay at pakikipaglaban ay nagtagumpay kami para sa kabutihan ng aming kababayan (We are truly elated that after years of waiting we finally won the battle for our provincemates)," Martin said.
Suspension orders to Huaxia Resources Corp. ,Hao Ren International Mining Group Corp., Feiron Steel Inc., Global Express Mining and Dev't Corp., Nova International Cagayan KR Corp. and San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd., were issued last April 28 and are still in effect as of to date, official sources said.
"God is good. After so many years of fighting, justice has been finally served." said Martin.
Martin has been fighting the mining operations in the area since 2008 with other POs like Aparrianos Movement for the Conservation and Environmental Protection (AMCEP) and Concerned Laloeno Against Illegal Mining (CLAIM), both established in 2010.
She recounted the event that led to their victory that was in an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) convention in Ortigas last March 25.
With the effort of national anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), representatives of local POs from Cagayan, Martin got a chance to personally talk to MGB national director Leo Jasareno and expose the illegal mining operations in Buguey, Lallo and Aparri.
"We showed Director Jasareno photos of mining operations in our area and at first he couldn't believe it because as far as MGB was concerned, they already ordered these mining companies to stop dredging our coastal areas and river banks." Martin recounted.
MGB made a site visit in Cagayan on April 8 which resulted in the issuance of the mining companies' MPSAs suspension.
"MGB representatives found continuous mining operations in our respective areas. They saw the adverse effects black sand mining was doing to our environment." said Martin.
Ilocos Sur governor irked at black sand mining tirades
by Thom Picana
27 June 2014
BAGUIO CITY - Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Singson cried foul at tirades against him by anti-magne- tite mining groups, including the powerful Roman Catholic Church, following the alleged proliferation of black sand mining in the province.
"Why don't they ask where the Nueva Segovia Diocese gets its multi-million investment in Ilocos Sur?" an irate Singson said.
Local government executives have been ordered to strictly enforce restrictions on black sand and beach mining to prevent the destruction of coastlines and stop the illegal extraction of minerals.
In a memorandum dated April 4, 2014, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in coordination with the MGB, ordered provincial executives to cancel the sand and gravel permits and file charges against entities involved in black sand mining.
The order also enjoins local government units to strictly ban the extraction of minerals in beaches.
In spite of this and the pronouncements of Singson and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) that it doesn't exist in the province, black sand mining appears to be alive and well, according to residents of Caoayan and two island communities of Santa town.
Donna Peta, convenor of the group Defend Ilocos Against Mining Plunder, said the reason why residents doubt Singson is because of the appearance of 12 ships since May 12, 2014 about 200 meters from the shorelines of Villamar and Poro Island.
Peta said the ships-six dredge vessels with magnetic separators and 6 barges-are owned by Isla Verde Mining & Development Company and Mega East Archipelago Resources Corporation.
The provincial government said the former is dredging the Abra River while the latter is rehabilitating the Mestizo River.
However, residents and various groups, including the Social Action Center of the Arch Diocese of Nueva Segovia in Vigan City, doubt this story.
They cited the case against Hong Ze Mining in Barangay Tamorong, Sta. Catalina town that claimed to be dredging the Bantaoay River.
The company was later raided and dismantled by the Inter-Agency Anti-Illegal Mining Task Force in August 2013 for violating the 200-meter no-mining zone along beaches and for illegally extracting ore and transporting it.