Twisting the facts & fooling the people: Some points and arguments on offshore magnetite mining

Recent news, interviews and events have provided a venue for some politicians and individuals to explain their concepts on and understanding of offshore mining, specifically magnetite extraction. Their efforts to raise the discussion on the impacts of this type of mining operation on the academic level is very much welcome. 

The good thing about scientific discussion is you cannot look at the issue or subject only from one side and give a final/definite conclusion that one can claim as “true". Scientific data should be amply supported and above all, open for scrutiny and comparison to other existing studies. Scientific studies and data would surely provide a clearer picture of offshore mining in general and magnetite extraction, in particular.

However, thinking that they could fool the people, politicians and their allies resort to twisting and distortion of facts and science, to justify the presence of mining operation and hide their obvious disregard of the peoples’ safety and environmental security. Greed, for lack of a better word, seems to be the driving force of these politicians and individuals in their distortion of the truth.

Defend Ilocos would be very happy if the public officials and individuals promoting magnetite mining could share to us and other concerned groups and individuals  a copy of the scientific paper which explains the inhibition of coconut growth and coral development by magnetite.

It’s quite hard to reconcile how an inert material like magnetite could cause such effect. In fact, magnetite appears as a micronutrient in fertilizers used in crop production and lawn growth. A study conducted shows that plants grown in soil enriched with magnetite grow more quickly and exhibit better health, increased vibrancy and improved pest resistance than those grown in standard soil. Traces of magnetite are also found in marine organisms, which serve as vital nutrient for their growth and other biological functions. In contrast, studies conducted regarding mining operation in marine environments have proven that disturbance in the fragile ecosystem can bring about negative impacts which may lead to decrease and extinction of flora and fauna.

Another point which requires attention is the claim and explanation that since magnetite came from the mountains deposited along and on the beaches through sediment transport (which is true, by the way) which took millions of years, it is not a natural part of the beach sand, therefore, it will be just fine to remove the material and replace it with another soil. We would like to underscore that there are certain “Laws of Ecology” which should be observe and considered in all human undertakings with regards to the environment – two of which is relevant to the issue at hand.

The first law states that – “Everything is connected to everything else," implying that while the bulk magnetite deposited in the beaches, and nearshore areas came from the mountains, it is still a vital material in the ecosystem, and its absence will create an imbalance. Which brings us to the second law – “Nature knows best." The deposition of sediments and minerals, including magnetite in the shores and nearshore areas is part of nature’s self-regulating and self-healing capacity. It took millions of years for such a deposit to develop, millions of years that this material has played and function as part of an intricate ecosystem and its removal will surely create an impact that would take a long time and costly to repair.

Climate change is indeed one of the culprits in the rapidly changing and depleting shoreline. In fact, not only is climate change altering the landscape but also makes all ecosystems much more sensitive to human-induced disturbances.  But despite this truth, one should not disregard that researches have found and attributed massive and frequent coastal erosion to offshore mining. There are also Philippine-based researches that provided significant relationship between magnetite mining and coastal erosion, thus, allowing corporate offshore mining operation (with profit being the main objective) is tantamount to hastening the destruction of marine habitats and landscape, and exposing the communities to greater danger against natural disasters and hazards. The confirmation that offshore mining operations will be near from the shoreline makes the issue more disturbing. Data reveals that mining within nearshore areas is more destructive in terms of coastline alteration and erosion. In fact, marine geologists consider the sand up to 20 meters deep to be part of the active sediment transport system responsible in maintaining the sediment balance, a natural erosion control system.

Twisting the facts and the obvious effort of the pro-mining officials and individuals to fool the people into believing that they are supporting the communities’ opposition against this destructive operation is an outright arrogance and manifestation of belittling the ability of the people to think and understand the issue. It is quite plain and simple to see that these individuals have been drumming-up the so-called contributions of mining to development – such as roads, buildings, employment, etc. being offered by the companies and facilitated by their local partners and political connections. But equating mining to development has been proven to be false both by international and local mining data. From 2007-2011, mining only accounts to 0.50% of national employment and P 595.4 million of local government revenues compared to the P 112.56 billion of the gross production value of mining.

Furthermore, mining is a short term economic endeavor. After the mineral have been mined, communities will be left with trails of destruction and disasters. Below are some notable impacts of magnetite sand mining in the region:

  • FILMAG (Philippines) Inc. mining operations along the La Union-Ilocos Sur coast from 1964-1976 yielded a total of 2M metric tons of magnetite sand which resulted to a 30-meter retreat of the shorelines with one-meter deepening if stretched evenly along the 67 kilometer beaches of La Union.
  • Mining conducted in the offshore of Lingayen Gulf in 1985-1990 which resulted to flooding & reclaiming by the sea of lands especially in Sto. Tomas and Agoo, both in La Union.
We thus ask the concerned government unit and institutions to hold a public forum that will allow different groups to present their views, scientific arguments and facts on the subject matter. We will release a more comprehensive discussion on this issue in the coming days to enlighten the people on the matter.

Save Ilocos! Stop black sand/magnetite mining in Ilocos Region and Cagayan. Sign the petition now. Join CUADERNO ILOCANO KDPY.

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