WHAT WENT BEFORE: Illegal black sand mining
Illegal mining of black sand or magnetite has persisted in several towns in Cagayan province despite opposition from local residents and raids by authorities on prohibited operations.
Several groups have complained that the magnetite resources are being smuggled out of the country through Port Irene in Santa Ana town with the use of allegedly questionable permits issued by the national and local governments.
In August 2013, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) found during raids that foreign companies, mostly Chinese, that held permits issued by the MGB or the provincial government were behind the illegal extraction in Cagayan.
The agents, who belong to a task force on illegal black sand mining, arrested 18 Chinese employed by Hua Xia Mining and Trading Corp., which operated illegally a processing plant for black sand in Paddaya and Dodan villages, both in Aparri town. The company only had a permit to extract sand in Casiitan and Batangan villages, both in Gonzaga town.
Despite the campaign against illegal black sand mining, extraction continued in 2014, especially at night, rousing residents from sleep as heavy machinery roared.
In April 2014, Carlito Pentecostes Jr., then mayor of Gonzaga and a supporter of black sand mining, was shot and killed by an unidentified man seconds after a flag-raising ceremony in front of the municipal hall.
Pentecostes had been criticized for his vocal support for black sand mining undertaken by Chinese companies in Gonzaga. He had said mining was a lucrative financial base for the town to improve its economy but had to contend with the unease residents raised about the industry.
The mayor credited black sand mining for helping Gonzaga improve its municipal hall, market and gymnasium.
In June 2014, a Chinese miner and eight Filipino workers were arrested for illegal black sand extraction in a coastal village in Gonzaga.
After engaging in inland extraction in Cagayan’s northern coastal communities from 2009 to 2014, the mining companies considered offshore operations. There were proposals to scour the seabed 9 to 15 kilometers from the shore and extract magnetite from an area of 5,000 hectares.—Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives