Firm sees metal costlier than gold in Romblon sea
A largE deposit of a precious metal more expensive than gold and believed to be in the sea off the island-province of Romblon, has piqued the interest of a mining company that has sought government permission to explore the area.
But local governments and environmental groups in the province have opposed the plan of the Asian Palladium Mineral Resources Inc., a firm based in Quezon City, to conduct off-shore mining and exploration off Tablas Island.
The company wants to explore 10.6 hectares in the Tablas Strait to search for “palladium, platinum and other related mineral deposits,” according to a copy of its application for a Financial and/or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTTA), a government document needed for mining.
The company applied for a 25-year (renewable for another 25 years) FTTA at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on April 5.
The MGB in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) region in May had written the local governments concerned—Looc, Ferrol, Odiongan, San Agustin, San Andres, Sta. Maria and Alcantara—requesting its mayors to post on their towns’ bulletin boards the notice of application.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, the company’s geologist, Louie Santos, confirmed the firm’s application for a license to explore the Tablas Strait for palladium.
Santos said palladium is a rare mineral usually used in manufacturing aircraft and automotive parts.
“Very few countries have deposits [of palladium],” he said, noting that Russia is currently the top producer of the high-value mineral.
Santos said the company is pursuing the project based on a report by the United States Geological Survey that detected a vast palladium reserve off the coast of Romblon.
Santos said his company wrote the local governments last week to request for an audience with its officials for a project presentation, but none has responded so far.
Should its application be granted, the company would begin drilling 20 to 100-meter deep holes, each about two inches in diameter, into the sea floor to obtain earth samples.
“It is said that with that much [palladium deposit], the Philippines could easily pay off its [foreign] debts,” Santos said. He did not provide figures.
The mining application, however, is being met by growing opposition from local governments in Romblon, a province that has been implementing an indefinite ban on metallic mining since 2011.
Incoming Odiongan Mayor Trina Firmalo said residents, especially fishermen, expressed apprehension over the project.
“We understand that mining is necessary in some cases, but for Romblon, we have a very delicate ecosystem that we try to keep in balance,” Firmalo said in a telephone interview.
Environmental activist Rodne Galicha, director of the group Bayay Sibuyanon, said the off-shore mining operation may also affect the Verde Island Passage, an area in the waters of Mindoro and Batangas provinces that is known as the “global center of biodiversity” due to its rich marine resources.
Despite the local moratorium, Roland de Jesus, MGB Mimaropa director, said there is no national law that prohibits the processing of the company’s application.
Santos assured the company would set up measures to prevent environmental degradation once mining activities start.
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