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July 2, 2008

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Magnetite Mining in the Offshore Areas of Cagayan*

*Excerpt from the policy research conducted by KADUAMI entitled 'Mining in Cagayan Valley: A Study on the Effects on Indigenous Peoples Rights, Food Security and Human Rights.' Policy research was first presented on the 3rd EED-TFIP National Conference on Indigenous Peoples' Food Security held on March 29-30, 2008.


The Republic Act 7942 popularly known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is a brainchild of President Fidel Ramos and a part and parcel of the Medium Term Development Plan or the Philippines 2000 program. The Philippines 2000 aims to comprehensively open the Philippine economy to foreign capital investments through deregulation (relaxation of government control to the economy), liberalization (removal or lessening of trade tariffs on imported goods and capital) and privatization of the public sector of the economy. These plans constitute the globalization in the Philippines.
These national policies have opened up vast tracts of Cagayan Valley's land to the control of big mining transnational companies (TNCs). In 2004, President Arroyo passed EO 270 which brought forth the Mineral Action Plan (MAP) to strengthen the Mining Act. These shortened the time of processing of mining applications, "harmonized" conflicting laws that contradict the Mining Act, and subvert the people's rights to oppose mining projects.

The Philippines offshore area including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is estimated at 2.2 million km2. Potential mineral offshore resources are placer minerals including gold, chromites, magnetite, silica and aggregate resources (sand & gravel), decorative stones, manganese nodules/encrustation with associated copper, gold, zinc, and cobalt.

In June 2007, the then Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources Angelo Reyes approved 11 new projects which include 6 mineral production sharing agreement and 5 exploration permits. Three of the five exploration permits were approved to Colossal Mining Corporation (CMC).

Colossal Mining Corporation, a 100 % Filipino owned company that engages in exploration, mining, and production of iron ore in the Philippines, holds three exploration permits of 36,000 hectares of offshore magnetite iron ore sites in Northern Luzon (Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur) of which 13,483.89 hectares are located in the province of Cagayan alone, situated in the municipal waters of Sanchez Mira, Pamplona, Abulug, Ballesteros, Appari, Buguey and Gonzaga of Cagayan. Colossal Mining Corporation is a partner of Bonaparte Diamond Mines NL, the sole company based in Australia that conducts marine diamond exploration.

What is Magnetite?

Magnetite is a magnetic and very dense (heavy) mineral of iron. Its chemical formula is Fe3O4. It has many industrial uses. Magnetite is an important source of iron for the iron and steel industries but it also has other uses as an industrial mineral to produce many value-added products. High-grade magnetite is used in many chemical processes including the production of iron sulfate, which is used to purify water in many major cities. Magnetite's weight per volume makes it an important source of aggregate in the production of heavy concrete. Heavy concrete is used from the construction of baffles and containment tanks in nuclear power plants to things as everyday as counter weights in household washing machines.

Cagayan People's Struggle against Magnetite Mining

In 2005, United Philippine-China Mining Corporation tried to drill and explore magnetite sand in the off-shore area of Brgys. Masisit and Namuac in Sanchez Mira. The company set-up a bunk houses and was able to operate for more than two months for sedimentary sampling. Residents protested and set-up a barricade in the area, calling for the company's withdrawal from its operations. People from the affected areas, together with the church sector being led by Bishop Diosdado Talamayen, lawyers, medical doctors and other professionals and other pro-environment individuals have conducted series of education activities and mass actions. They said, a consultation was held but not all stakeholders were invited. The operation stopped and company's equipment was pulled out. But another exploration of the area is at hand, now in the name of CMC.

At present, residents in Pamplona, Cagayan which is part of the area stated in the CMCs EP, have been conducting information and education campaigns against the impending entry and operation of the country. Four barangays in Pamplona have submitted a petition to the municipal council against the entry of this company. The municipal council has yet to take further action.

In Aparri, Cagayan, residents told the research team that on February 29, 2008, three sea vessels have docked and drilled magnetite sand along the off-shore area. Residents have trooped to the area of drilling operation and drove away the drillers. The drillers were able to get approximately 200 kls. of magnetite sand, according to residents, before they flee to other offshore areas of Cagayan. When the team was to leave the area, it has spotted a sea vessel still docked on a port in Aparri. The team documented and presented this to the MGB-Region II. Officials of the MGB-Region II were surprised upon seeing the photo and video documents, saying that this should not be allowed because this could be a case of minerals smuggling if this be transported outside the country. According to them, before anyone could transfer minerals abroad, the company has to secure an Ore Transportation Permit (OTP). They said this will be investigated by the MGB, together with the Bureau of Customs.

Potential Risks/ Effects
These mining projects claim to provide benefits to the people. The battle continues as people in the mining-affected communities in the region do not want to accept these as they are drawing the lessons in the experiences of others who have been victimized by mining operations.

On Environment:

Offshore mining of magnetite in Cagayan can increase vulnerability to floods as magnetiteholds the sand together. The absence of magnetite in the sand can deplete and erode the coastal and near-shore areas as the experience of Bauang, La Union has shown. Bauang municipal government is now putting up seawalls as a mitigating measure for possible flooding.

On Sources of Livelihood and Food Security:

" Loss of farmlands near the coastal areas due to flooding brought about by coastal erosion and depletion
" Loss of marine sources of food and livelihood, especially in coastal areas of the region

On IP rights

The mining areas being targeted for explorations are usually those in remote areas being occupied by various ethno-linguistic groups classified as IPs that the main source of livelihood are farming and fishing. These groups also suffer from government neglect, denying them of even the most basic social services.

Policy Recommendations

There is a need to develop a new mining code that is not created for the purpose of serving the interests of big mining TNCs and local elites, but for the national industrialization that will cater to the needs of the country's populace.

a) Development of IEC materials to popularize and continue the struggle against mining operations;

b) Strengthen the peoples organizations and alliances in the area to launch concerted mass actions and increase participation in local governance

c) Broaden the network of advocacy groups that will support the mass actions and help in the projection of the issue at the national and international levels

d) Support the resolutions and petitions passed by the local government units opposing these mining operations

e) Support the policy recommendations and actions being undertaken both at the lower and upper houses

f) Continue to create national and international pressure on the mining firms concerned *


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