Philippines: Groups oppose offshore mining in CagayanPublished by MAC on 2021-02-16
Source: Philstar.com, Manila Standard (2021-02-12)
Under the Fisheries Code, aquatic pollution through dumping of substances is unlawful.
Civil society in the Philippines has begun to mobilise to oppose seabed mining off the coast of Cagayan Province in the north of Luzon. There are both environmental and social concerns over the damage "irreversible negative impact" that the magnetite iron mining may bring.
However, the mining ships have already arrived in the area and getting ready to start production.
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Groups oppose 'destructive' offshore mining project in Cagayan
Gaea Katreena Cabico
1 February 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The large-scale offshore magnetite mining in Cagayan province could harm marine life and ecosystems in the area and affect fisherfolks' access to their fishing grounds, organizations opposing the project said.
In a letter sent to Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials, Cagayan provincial government officials, and lawmakers, 74 groups said the activity is “destructive and has irreversible negative impact” to marine ecosystems.
The groups stressed the project will potentially impact the ecosystems in the Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seacape, including 50 hectares of corals and seagrass beds that are important habitats for the critically endangered dugong.
They also said the activity also poses hazards to marine mammals since the proposed site is the only known breeding area for humpback whales in the Philippines. The area is also part of the Babuyan Marine Corridor, a key biodiversity area and a priority conservation site.
“Noise, oil and water pollution that would emanate from the mining activities would affect the marine mammals in the area and their habitat, directly or indirectly, causing them to be disturbed or injured and might even lead to their death,” the groups said in a position paper.
“The increase in turbidity may result in disturbances in spawning of the marine mammals’ prey items. The eggs and larvae of their prey are at high risk from entrainment, decreasing prey availability for the marine mammals,” they added.
According to the project fact sheet uploaded on the website of DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, the extraction process through siphon vessel with magnetic separator, poses “no hazard at all and no social complication as the siphon vessel is stationed at the ocean far from the shore.”
The project of JDVC Resources Corp. is said to be the first massive offshore magnetite mining in the Philippines. The firm is allowed to mine within an area of 1,092.59 hectares located 14 kilometers offshore from the town of Gonzaga.
The DENR greenlighted the project last year, according to reports.
“This impacts livelihood of fisherfolk and possible violation of their constitutionally guaranteed preferential right to access their fishing grounds,” the groups said.
They also said the siphoning activity and the return of discarded sand from mining magnetite may cause hypersedimentation. This may result in disturbance to benthic organisms in sandy areas, which will affect fishers and people relying on marine resources in the area.
But the project’s fact sheet said the siphoning action does not produce significant sea bottom topography disturbances.
The organizations also pointed out that the project may potentially add to reported disputes over the industry between the New People’s Army and illegal foreign companies.
According to the groups, the “project goes against the precautionary principle for the protection of the environment, enforcement of our laws and our international commitments.”
Its impacts may violate Presidential Decree 979, which prohibits the dumping of any kind of wastes from vessels arising from exploitation of seabed mineral resources, they said
They added that under the Fisheries Code, aquatic pollution through dumping of substances is unlawful. The Clean Water Act also prohibits the discharge of any kind of material that could cause water pollution or impede natural flow in the body of water.
“We demand transparency and for government to make available to the public the documents required under environmental impact assessment laws and regulations and public consultation compliance,” the organizations said.
“We demand science-based and sustainable use of our natural resources… We demand compliance to laws and international commitment for sustainable development. We demand that peoples’ voices be heard, especially the affected communities who will bear the impacts of this project,” they added.
The signatories include Oceana, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Greenpeace Philippines, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines.
Apollo Global announces subsidiary’s start of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan
Alena Mae S. Flores
31 January 2021
Apollo Global Capital said subsidiary JDVC Resources will start the commercial operations of the country’s first offshore magnetite iron mining project in Cagayan next month.
The company assured the government of a minimal impact on the sea environment as studies by a Singapore-based survey company showed that there is no coral or aquamarine life within the mining area located 150 meters below sea level.
Jun Herrera, JDVC and APL consultant, said the first newly-built deep sea mining vessel arrived in Cagayan and was taking shelter because of strong waves.
Mining operations are expected to start by mid or end-February as soon as the ocean swell subsided, he said.
“The first vessel has arrived and three more vessels are expected to arrive this year,” Herrera said.
The vessel is capable of commercial extraction, testing and sampling and production of magnetite iron.
APL said the complaint from certain residents of Ballesteros, Cagayan alleging that the planned offshore mining operations of JDVC Resources would cause damage to coral beds had no basis.
“We won’t even be mining in their waters. In the first place, our mining operation will be in the waters of Buguey and Gonzaga towns, and at a distance of over 14 kilometers. That’s more than two horizon lengths away from the shoreline,” the company said.
Ballesteros resident Lazaro Ramos, in a letter to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, described the JDVC project as a “catastrophe”, citing a study by University of Hawaii oceanographer Craig Smith on the ocean seabed in the northeast Pacific abyssal waters.
APL said the study cited by Ballesteros identified a different part of the ocean compared to the mining site.
“That’s a different part of the Pacific. It looks at the ocean bed more than 200 meters below sea level, whereas we can only go down to 150 meters with current technology. Moreover, the Smith study did not look at magnetite iron reserves. From the experience of countries like Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand, magnetite iron is known to be toxic to corals, fish and other aquamarine life,” the company said.
JDVC said it commissioned a Singapore survey company to conduct a full “sea bottom profile” of its mining tenements off Cagayan. The study said no corals or aquamarine life were to be found in the area.
The company said they consulted the residents of Buguey and Gonzaga and conducted corporate social responsibility activities over the years.
“We’re proud to say that over 90 percent of the residents support us and are even anxious for us to get started,” APL said.
Herrera said the mining project, located in the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga in Cagayan, received funding from the Development Bank of the Philippines,
DBP granted an $8-million credit line for the JDVC magnetite iron mining project “We have proven to them [DBP] that it’s environmentally safe,” the mining consultant said.
“The DBP loan has zero borrowings yet as of now, hence, our company remains to be zero debts and internally funded by our shareholders. The DBP loan will only kick off once we have the letter of credit is presented to the bank for the discounting the letter of credit of export buyers to obtain a 90-day working capital to fund the production of the ordered iron ore,” Herrera said.
He said JVDC, as an ISO-certified company, should maintain standards which include submissions of compliance to ecological and environmental standards.
Herrera said magnetite mining has a strong market around the world including China, which made “the steel industry as their roadmap for their economic recovery.”