LEADERS from affected communities in Cagayan and their support groups has met with Mines and Geosciences Bureau head Engr. Leo Jasareno to dialogue about the issue on offshore black sand mining.

The groups reiterated their position against any new mining-related developments in their area.

“Our waters and source of livelihood have already been devastated because of black sand mining; more offshore mining activities will definitely impact our communities,” said Rosbin Martin, leader of Alliance for Buguey Committed for Development Association (ALBUCODA).

Last June 23 the communities, together with Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg, questioned the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau for entertaining a certain Peniel Resources Mining Corporation in its plan to do offshore mining in Cagayan when the agency is yet to finalize its Guidelines on Offshore Mining.

The public forum to discuss the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted by the mining company was also postponed when one of the participants raised not having access to the full EIS document submitted to the MGB.

Peniel Resources was issued a production agreement to extract magnetite in the offshore areas of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga covering 15,000-hectares in 2010.

They participated mainly to see how mining will further impact them and to call on the government agencies present to stop mining in Cagayan. Today, their position is the same.

Sr. Minerva Caampued, a Franciscan Apostolic Sister based in Sta. Ana added: “The locals, mainly fisherfolks who work for daily subsistence, are heavily affected by mining. We call on the President and the DENR to stop mining here, stick to the suspension of black sand mining operations and stop issuing new permits.”

Mining in the coastal areas in the province have caused coastal erosion and heavy siltation. Depletion of sand also caused the entry of salt water in farmlands.

Fisherfolks also have raised concern on how the extraction of black sand affects the breeding grounds of marine species including seashells and shrimps.

Meanwhile, support group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) asserted that the MGB should retain the suspension of black sand mining operations and investigate the socio-economic impacts of mining to the affected communities.

“The socio-economic impacts of black sand mining are affecting the peoples rights, which we believe must be the priority of the government and not such destructive industry. We also believe that the government should be accountable for rights violated, including the unresolved case of anti-mining advocate Gensun Agustin who was killed,” Emmanuel Amistad, TFDP executive director added.

Alyansa Tigil Mina submits position paper

Mining advocacy group Alyansa Tigil Mina also questioned why a permit for offshore mining was issued when there are still no guidelines for such operations.

Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator said: “We do not understand how the DENR would issue a contract for such mining activity when it has no guidelines nor the capacity to monitor offshore mining activities. A different mining activity must have a separate set of guidelines that should have been determined before the agency issued a permit. What worries us is it seems the MGB has issued several permits of this kind already.”

There is FTAA No. 6 issued in 2010 covering almost 10,000-hectares found offshore the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Pangasinan.

Meanwhile, there are many reports of illegal black sand mining operations in the coastal areas of the country.

The group added that mining in marine and aquatic is very much different from mountain and forest ecosystems where MGB has been used to since large-scale mining was promoted.

ATM submitted to the MGB its position paper on black sand mining and insisted that more studies need to be conducted and that there should be a different set of requirements for the EIA/EIS for offshore mining.

The group also suggested that the MGB include foreshore and offshore areas as a mining no-go zone.

Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and passage of the AMMB. PR