PH’s 1st large-scale offshore mining to start in January

Published December 7, 2020, 7:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippines’ first large-scale offshore mining operation is set to start in January next year, involving the extraction of thousands of metric tons of magnetite iron reserves in the seabed off Cagayan.

            JDVC Resources Corporation, a subsidiary of publicly listed company Apollo Global Capital (APL), is already planning to start next year its actual magnetite mining operations in Cagayan after years of exploration.

            “As the New Year begins with the close of the typhoon season, the ocean swell in the waters around northern Luzon starts to calm down. It will be the perfect time to begin mining the offshore magnetite iron reserves deposited over millions of years in the seabed off Cagayan, many miles away from the shoreline,” the company said in a statement.

            “This project will be a first for the country,” it added.

            In a text exchange, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano confirmed that JDVC’s operations will be the first large-scale offshore mining operations in the Philippines.

            “The company has undergone Environmental Impact Assessment System done by EMB [Environmental Management Bureau] and was issued the ECC [Environmental Compliance Certificate] before the company had its Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility is approved,” Moncano said over the weekend. 

            “That means that EMB has determined that the impacts [of the project] can be mitigated,” he added. 

            Under its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Philippine government, JDVC is allowed to mine within an area of 1,902.59 hectares located 14 kilometers offshore from the municipality of Gonzaga, province of Cagayan.

            Its operations focus on the mining of magnetite, an iron-oxide mineral used to make steel and other products. The probable ore reserve in the area is around 631.7 million metric tons (MT).

            JDVC said in an earlier presentation posted on its website that the extraction of iron sand, whether taken from the offshore, or within the 20 kilometer radius would be very simple.

            For offshore, it is via siphon vessel with magnetic separator, and processing apparatuses on board.

            “This system has no hazard at all and no social complication as the siphon vessel is stationed at the ocean far from the shore.  There is no explosive use. Hence, there is no blasting activity. There is no permanent structure buried to the sea bottom,” the company further said.

            However, some environmental advocacy groups are saying that magnetite mining can increase the vulnerability of target areas to floods and that the absence of magnetite in the sand can deplete and erode the coastal and near shore areas.

            In a text message, Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) Convenor and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) needs to first clarify its policy on offshore mining, which does not specifically cover magnetite sand.

           “All permits for magnetite sand and black sand have been revoked or canceled so technically, the JDVC permit is not enforceable,” Garganera said.  

           “If DENR has changed or updated both policies (off-shore mining and cancellation of all permits for magnetite sand), then they did that again without transparency and we demand immediate disclosures from DENR about these new or updated policies. Certainly, we have strong opposition to such policy and practice,” he added.

           For his part, Moncano said the Philippine government’s guidelines on offshore mining cover all kinds of minerals.

           Meanwhile, JDVC has partnered and signed with well-known food entrepreneur Frank Lao of the Choi Garden restaurant group for this mining venture.

          Under his mine consortium agreement with JDVC, Lao acquired two deep-sea mining vessels, with a net capacity of 10,000 tons per day.

          The ships are expected to arrive in January, which will complement another vessel already deployed by JDVC over its offshore mining tenement miles away from the town of Gonzaga, Cagayan.