BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – A mining company identified with controversial businessman Cedric Lee has been allowed to explore black sand or magnetite ore in Cagayan since 2007.
Engineer Mario Ancheta, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director for Cagayan Valley, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued an exploration clearance to Lee’s Colossal Mining Corp. on Aug. 7, 2007 or during the time of DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes.
Ancheta said an exploration permit was later issued to Lee’s firm during the term of DENR Secretary Horacio Ramos.
Black sand, which commands a lucrative price in international markets like China and Taiwan, is a vital component in power plants to generate electricity and in manufacturing concrete, steel, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry, and cosmetics.
Colossal Mining Corp. is a holder of a permit to conduct exploration for black sand deposits for possible commercial mining operations along Cagayan’s vast northern coastlines.
Lee and four other co-accused have been considered as fugitives by authorities for failing to surrender after the Taguig City regional trial court issued warrants of arrest against them for the non-bailable offense of serious illegal detention in connection with the beating of television host Vhong Navarro last Jan. 22.
Reports said Colossal’s black sand exploration covers a total of 13,483.89 hectares in the Cagayan coastal towns of Sanchez Mira, Pamplona, Abulug, Ballesteros, Appari, Buguey and Gonzaga.
Colossal is reportedly a holder of two other black sand exploration permits in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur covering some 22,000 hectares.
Ancheta said Lee is the managing director of Colossal, which is reportedly the country’s biggest black sand concessionaire. He said the firm ceded its exploration rights in Cagayan to the Cagayan Iron Sand Corp. on March 1, 2011.
“But the MOA (memorandum of agreement) entered into between Colossal and Cagayan Iron on May 28, 2012 for the latter’s right to explore black sand within the exploration areas granted to Colossal has yet to be approved by the DENR,” he said.
Ancheta, however, said Lee’s company still maintains a stake in the black sand project in Cagayan even if the MOA becomes effective.
The MGB said the national government-backed exploration project, which took off as early as five years ago under a mineral profit sharing agreement issued by the DENR, is still ongoing.