By MARY LOU MARIGZA
What is magnetite? Why are industrialised countries plundering this mineral? Can the people stop the extraction of black sand from rivers and seas by these foreign firms?
In the history of Northern Luzon, this is not the first time black sand is taken from the seas to get the black sand or magnetite. During Martial Law, the seas of La Union were already dug up especially in the towns of Aringay, Agoo, Bauang and Sto Tomas. This lasted for around four years from 1975 onwards. What countries these black sand were taken, nobody can tell. Most people know the company was called Filmag .
Magnetite has many industrial uses. This is used as material for making magnets, in construction, in paints or pigments as coloring even for make-ups, in food manufacturing, in steel production, for machines and equipment, kitchen utensils, in cement and many more. Thus, magnetite is a precious mineral.
It was discovered recently that if you separate titanium and vanadium from black sand, it becomes even more expensive and useful. Titanium and vanadium are very useful in the technological world. Titanium is a lot lighter than steel but is harder than steel and more importantly does not easily heat up and does not corrode.
Modern airplanes, satellites, drones and even bombs and missiles were made with titanium because it is lightweight but hard and it does not rust. Even medicine benefited with the use of titanium. Heart pacemakers, implants, hearing aids, surgical instruments use titanium because even blood and body fluids could not rust it and can stay in the body of a patient for a long time or better it can even outlive the patient. Computers, electronic equipment and computer peripherals manufactured lately are increasingly using titanium for the qualities of the mineral.
Vanadium is used for industrial purposes. It is used as cladding for steel and iron to make them rust proof and stronger. Vanadium is used in making cars, axles, carpentry equipment, in ceramics and glass. It is also used in jewelry, batteries and as superconductor. Vanadium also has some uses for marine life since most fishes and sea cucumbers are found to have traces of the element in their system.
It is of no surprise then why magnetite has become a precious commodity. And due to the character of the mineral, mining companies have discovered cheap ways to separate the titanium and vanadium from magnetite and sell these more expensively than the magnetite.
Iti is also no wonder then why foreign companies have been interested in the acquisition of huge quantities of black sand. The foreign companies took advantage of our weak implementation of laws on mining to skirt the requirements so they can plunder our natural resource as blatantly as taking these black sand from our own backyards, parks, beaches and worse from protected biodiversity areas.
From Pangasinan to Ilocos Norte, mining companies have applied and were granted permits to mine black sand. About 23,000 hectares in the coasts of Ilocos region have been allocated for black sand mining. Luckily for La Union due to the experience of Martial law extraction, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has issued a resolution to ban/deny the extraction of black sand from their beaches.
The biggest application was granted to Colossal Mining Corporation with coverage from Pangasinan to Ilocos Norte and to Cagayan. Around 14,000 hectares in Region I and 13,000 hectares in Region II were granted for extraction by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Natural Resources to Colossal Mining alone! MinProcess Group has an approved permit for 8,942 hectares in the shores of Pangasinan.
In Cagayan, mining permits were given by the DENR national office, the governor and local mayors. With the local authorities, small scale mining permits were applied for while “river dredging” was the reason given by the foreign companies in extracting black sand from the Rio Grande de Cagayan and Wangag river. So, while Sta Ana officials said NO to magnetite mining, Aparri, Lallo, Camalaniugan, Gonzaga, Buguey permitted magnetite mining on their rivers and beaches. Platinum Group has about 2,000 hectares approved permit for Sanchez Mira to Ballesteros, Buguey and Gonzaga. Mineral Frontier Resources and Development Corporation has an approved permit for 1,842 hectares in the shores of Sanchez Mira, Pamplona, Abulog and Ballesteros.
It seems the ones mining now in Cagayan are Taiwanese or Chinese and Koreans. The real estate construction booms in these countries makes them gobble up sand not from their beaches or seas but from Philippine seas. One questions the hoolabaloo over the dispute in the small islands of the Spratlys compared to the mega tons of black sand they can mine from Northern Luzon alone. With the sand they have taken from our shores and rivers, they could build more islands than those in the disputed territory. And you wonder why this government does not raise hell in preventing the mining of our precious metals which we can also use for our own building and technological purposes.
At the losing end of this plunder of black sand are the people. The fisherfolks who lose livelihood and property, the ordinary citizens who have to bear the brunt of more expensive marine products that were once so abundant, the children who do not have beaches to play in because the backhoe and loaders are removing the sand, the people who once reveled in the family gatherings by the beach or rivers. We are now feeling the scarcity of marine resources because the murky waters of the rivers and the seas have driven away the fish fry and destroyed the marine habitat. Food insecurity will be one result if the continuing plunder of the black sand is not stopped.
The loser in this plunder is us. And to borrow from the Occupy Wall Street movement, the biggest losers are we who are the 99%.
It cannot be denied that the floodings and beach erosion especially in Agoo, Aringay and Bauang are the effects of the magnetite mining so many years ago. It cannot be denied that the flooding and river bank erosion of Lallo, Camalaniugan and Aparri, of such magnitude and frequency is the effect of the mining of black sand in the Cagayan River . It cannot be denied that the flooding of the barrios of Punta and Bisagu in Aparri are the direct result of magnetite extraction on the very beaches of Aparri. Buguey is still lucky its sand dune barriers have not been exhausted but soon these too will be carried to foreign shores. We dread the disaster that is waiting to happen to the rich and fertile Buguey lagoon when all the sand is removed from the sabangan. Minanga, Gonzaga is losing its sand so it is now experiencing flooding.
The affected people of these areas have fought valiantly to stop the mining. To no avail. They have gained temporary victories by court orders and memo to cease operations. But the big foreign companies keep coming back for more and more and more sand.
The famous oceanographer Sylvia Earle in promoting conservation for the ocean’s resources has said that if there is no blue, there is no green. If we do not protect the forests, the oceans will not be protected for the water and minerals in the ocean come from the forests. If we do not protect the oceans, we would not have water and sand to hold the water, we would be in a state of flooding forever and no rains to water the forests. To which we add, if the black sand is gone, the land will be washed away, flooding occurs, starvation occurs, no clean water, diseases then death will come. So if there is no black, there is no blue, there is no green. Lahat ng bagay ay magkakaugnay. Iisa lamang ang ating planeta. At iisa lamang ang iniikutan ng mga bagay-bagay.
Let us save our environment by making sure there is black, blue and green that is abundant, clean and sustainable. We must say NO to mining plunder in our mountains, lands, shores, seas and rivers so the next generation can still inherit the earth.
We must say NO to wanton disregard for the welfare of the people just because of the little money we get from permitting these large foreign companies to extract our mineral resources. Let us say NO to greed and selfish big foreign corporate interests. # nordis.net