Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Black-ore gold rush scars Philippine coasts

Caoyan’s coast, along with beaches in other Philippine provinces, has been stripped for its magnetite, allegedly by Chinese firms working in collusion with shady local government officials

By Cecil Morella  /  AFP, CAOYAN, Philippines

Tayag said the national government was able to step in and start closing some of the black-sand mining operations, such as the one at Caoayan, because it had breached the law banning extraction close to the water.

He said most of the output from the operations was being shipped to China.

Recidoro said large miners were furious at the black-sand mining.

“You’re disturbing the ecosystem there, and there should be a remediation process in place before you’re allowed to do it,” he said. “For big mines like our members, that would involve putting up anti-siltation measures, making sure whatever flora or fauna is found there is identified and protected, and the displaced native species must be replaced with the same native species.”

Recidoro said the Chinese firms typically used Filipino front companies to secure mining permits from local officials.

Bautista said that while magnetite was the main mineral being mined on the coasts, Chinese entities were also involved in extraction of gold and nickel inland in some areas, including Zambales province.

Reports of Chinese nationals being caught for flouting mining laws have occurred frequently in recent years. Authorities arrested 80 Chinese miners from one chromite mine in Zambales in 2010, and another eight at a similar chromite operation in the island of Samar last year.

Luis Singson, interviewed by AFP shortly before his three-year term as governor of Ilocos Sur province ended last month, confirmed that he authorized several Chinese firms to mine for magnetite in Caoayan and San Vicente.

However, he said residents had supported these projects, and the firms built village roads and school buildings as payback for the host communities.

“Why should I stop progress in those villages?” Singson said.

He also insisted mining magnetite was good for the environment, saying the black sand had washed down from the mountains “millions of years ago” and prevented vegetation or crops from growing along the coast.

“Black sand is not natural in those areas... it should be removed,” he said.

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