Mining threatens Cagayan River

IT’S supposed to be the longest and widest river in the country. It passes through one of the few remaining primary forests in the Philippines. It supports the lives of numerous endemic and endangered species, like the bleeding-heart pigeon, the Philippine eagle and the ludong, a rare riverine fish.

The river drains a fertile valley that produces a variety of crops, including rice, corn, bananas, coconut, citrus and tobacco. There are dams in two of the river’s tributaries, the Magat and Chico Rivers. There are also tourist attractions that offer activities on the river, particularly whitewater rafting.

But Cagayan River is being threatened. Chinese companies are reportedly mining the river. The mining firms are reportedly using their dredging operations “as a front,” while local governments in the area, whose officials might have benefited from payola, from mining operators continue to claim that the activity is non-existent.

Reports said that early this year the North Korean vessel MV Nam Yang 8, a 3,400 ton vessel manned by 22 North Korean crewmen, was investigated for carrying 2,800 metric tons of magnetite sands mined in Cagayan province.

In July, six Chinese nationals were arrested for engaging in blacksand mining in Lallo, Cagayan province. Authorities also took the miners’ boat, the Hay Lon 69, which contained about 100 cubic meters of magnetite ore and unprocessed black sand.

Environmental activists warned that a total of 13,843 hectares of land along the coastal areas of Cagayan are already covered with magnetite mining permits. But local government officials said the “dredging” project is intended for flood control and reduction of bank erosion and failures along the river.

The Center for Environmental Concerns, however, said massive river bank erosion is occurring in the area and higher incidence and intensity of flooding have been experienced after the “dredging” operation.

The activists said the “dredging operations” of the Chinese companies are apparently intended to extract minerals from some areas of the river instead of implementing a clean-up or a flood control engineering.

Communities in the towns of Lallo, Buguey, Calamanuigan, Dodan, Appari, Abulog, Ballesteros, Pamplona, and Sanchez Mira have already reported negative impacts of the operation, such as community displacement, receding coastline, reduction of fish catch, and decreasing productivity.

Still local authorities are saying there are no mining operations in the area. We believe it’s already time for Malacanang to look into the issue. Who’s benefiting from the black sand in one of the country’s remaining natural resources? Who are these Chinese mining companies? It’s time to investigate before it’s too late.

Even just for the sake of the rare ludong let us oppose the rape of Cagayan River.

The ludong spawns in Cagayan River’s upper reaches in Jones, Isabela. In late October until mid-November, the fish travels down the river to release their eggs at the river mouth near Appari. In February, ludong fry by the millions are again caught in fine nets as they travel upstream.

Mining will surely stop the fish’s activities. Oppose black sand mining, save the fish! Up Close/Joe Torres


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