MANILA, Philippines — The government has greenlighted the first large-scale offshore mining in the country set to begin operations in Cagayan in January next year – considered a boon for the mineral sector, but a bane to the residents who remain wary of how the gigantic project would affect their communities.
A statement was released to the press on Saturday stating that JDVC Resources Corporation, a majority-owned subsidiary of Apollo Global Capital, is now ready to proceed with its offshore mining operations after securing the necessary permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Under its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement, it is allowed to mine within an area of 1,903 hectares in the seabed off Cagayan, located 14 kilometers offshore from the municipality of Gonzaga.
The company also forged an agreement with billionaire Frank Lao of the Choi Garden restaurant group, who is also engaged in nickel trading. Lao is set to provide two deep-sea mining vessels for the operation, with a net capacity of 10,000 tons per day. Once the vessels arrive in January, the offshore mining will proceed.
Ore reserves in the area were projected to reach around 632 million tons of magnetite – a kind of iron-oxide mineral used to make steel.
According to JDVC’s website, the extraction process would yield “no hazard at all and no social complication,” stressing that there would also be no explosives that would be used that may bring permanent damage to the seafloor.
Locals not consulted?
But residents early on have been wary of JDVC since it operated in the province of Cagayan as part of its exploration activities.
In a previous report by the Inquirer in 2018, residents have been demanding answers from the government on how JDVC was allowed in their area without consultation with local communities.
Environmental groups also stressed that magnetite is toxic and that offshore mining may bring irreversible damage to the ecosystem.
Research on the effects of deep-sea mining has been scant that even the 168-nation International Seabed Authority under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea – of which the Philippines is a member – has yet to finalize a code that could eventually lead to such commercial mining.
In August, a study led by University of Hawaii oceanographer Craig Smith showed possible adverse effects that may be brought by mining the ocean floor.
“Many deep-sea ecosystems will be very sensitive to seafloor mining, are likely to be impacted over much larger scales than predicted by mining interests, and local and regional biodiversity losses are likely with the potential for species extinction,” he said.