Black sand mining opponents, operator face off in Leyte provincial board
TACLOBAN CITY—The provincial board of Leyte is hearing both sides in the mining controversy now gripping the town of MacArthur involving a company that ships black sand, a key ingredient in steel-making, to China and a Church official protesting its operations.
On Thursday (Feb.12), the committee on natural resources, chaired by Board Member Mecias Arevalo, conducted a hearing with both protesters and officials of the mining firm MacArthur Iron Sand Project Corp. (MIPC).
Fr. Amadeo Alvero, the town parish priest who is leading the fight against the mining operations, pleaded with provincial legislators to intervene and stop black sand mining at the village of Maya.
“I am appealing to the benevolent institution of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to please stop the mining activity in MacArthur,” he said at the hearing that lasted for almost two hours.
The committee, through presiding officer Vice Governor Carlo Loreto, asked the MPIC and mining protesters to submit documents to substantiate their claims for and against the mining operations.
Alvero said the extraction of black sand at the village could lead to environmental destruction and harm the town’s food security.
In his pleading, Alvero said he opposed black sand mining in MacArthur to be consistent with the Church advocacy of protecting the environment.
“MacArthur has experienced irresponsible mining activities. None of these mining companies conducted rehabilitation,” Alvero said at the board hearing.
But Januar Ong, communications officer of MIPC, maintained that the company was practicing “progressive mining operation.”
He said after MPIC extracts black sand in the area, it quickly replaces the sand that had been removed.
Ong said destruction in the area could have been caused by mining companies that operated previous to MPIC.
“We cannot be held answerable to the sins of the previous mining companies,” said Ong. “We are not connected to any of these mining companies,” he said.
“I think it is not fair for us to be labeled as irresponsible,” Ong told the board. “We have just started our operations and, in fact, we are now in the process of rehabilitation,” he said.
He asked those who opposed to give MIPC a chance to prove sincerity in its commitment to rehabilitate its mining area.
The MIPC has a 25-year mining permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for more than 2,000 hectares of land located mostly in MacArthur town.
Last January, the MIPC made its first shipment of black sand involving 39,000 metric tons to China.
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