China took 2.5M tons of PH magnetite
AT LEAST 2.5 million metric tons of the country’s magnetite were shipped to China from almost five years of controversy-ridden blacksand mining operations in the province of Cagayan, government records showed.
The volume comprised a total of about 331 shipments that got out of Port Irene, the main port of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Santa Ana town.
“All shipment recorded China as port of destination,” said Joyce Jayme-Calimag, public relations chief of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), the government agency that manages the freeport.
With an average load of six tons per truck, such volume is enough to fill about 416,670 dump trucks.
The minerals were derived from the suspended blacksand mining operations of various foreign companies, which, for the past four years, had been extracting magnetite sand from the coastal areas of Aparri, Buguey, and Gonzaga towns, as well as the riverbed of the Cagayan River in Lal-lo, Camalaniugan and Aparri.
From 2009 to 2014, the operations were allowed by the Philippine government through small-scale mining and “commercial sand and gravel” permits issued by the provincial government, and industrial quarry permits from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
Chinese and Korean firms were also allowed by town and provincial governments to extract magnetite along the Cagayan River and the Buguey lagoon through supposed dredging projects.
The Port Irene figures, however, do not include magnetite shipments that came out of the port in Aparri town, which is run by the Philippine Ports Authority, Calimag said.
Magnetite is said to be the most magnetic of all naturally occurring minerals on Earth, and is a sought-after additive to steel used in the construction industry.
For years, residents, and religious and environment groups in these areas opposed these activities, citing a number of irregularities. These include the supposed questionable schemes by which foreign mining firms were issued mining permits, the alleged lack of consent from affected communities.
They assailed the environmental and economic damage that these operations have brought to the coastal and river areas.
Citing field reports, Art Alariao, president of the Federation of Environmental Advocates of Cagayan, confirmed prior MGB claims that all blacksand mining operations in the province have stopped.
He, however, said that while blacksand extraction has stopped in former mining sites, the firms’ mineral processing plants still existed.
“What we have gathered is that these companies have the intention to stay and have now shifted to off-shore mining (for blacksand),” he said.
Based on MGB records, the agency has issued mineral ore export permits (MOEP) for a total volume of 1.2 million metric tons of magnetite, about only half of the total volume recorded to have been shipped out from Port Irene.
“Our data covers only MOEP, which may or may not be the same as the volume of ore actually shipped,” said Maribeth Tumaliuan, MGB regional mining claims examiner.
The total magnetite volume based on MGB records was covered by a total of 35 MOEPs, issued to three mining firms: Huaxia Mining & Trading Corp., Huaxia Resources Corp. and Haoren International Mining Group Corp.
The figures also do not include shipments covered under permits issued by the provincial government, Tumaliuan said.
But the total volume that was actually taken away from the province may no longer be known.
Roberto Adap, provincial environment and natural resources officer, said the province’s data on the blacksand mining operations are no longer available.
“As you know, our office records were lost in the fire,” he said, referring to the overnight blaze that hit the Kammaranan Hall at the capitol grounds in Tuguegarao City on April 4, 2014.#