Cognizant of the deleterious impact of black sand mining not only on the environment, but also its harmful effects on people, Sen. Leila M. de Lima has filed a bill banning the extraction of magnetite, commonly known as black sand.
De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 960 as she noted how some mining companies are taking undue advantage of the absence of a law that directly prohibits black sand mining as long as they could secure dredging permits for their operations.
“The alarming adverse effect of exploration and extraction of black sand on the environment and human life, and despite government efforts to curb illegal activities, black sand mining has been proliferating in different parts of the country,” she said.
“At dahil sa black sand mining kumokonti ang huli ng ating mga mangingisda, at ang mga komunidad sa tabing-dagat ay nakakaranas ng pagguho ng lupa at pagbaha. Darami pa ang magdurusa kung hindi natin ito ipagbabawal,” she added.
In filing Senate Bill No. 960, De Lima noted reports that some unscrupulous mining operators, mostly foreign nationals, are conniving with some local government officials to operate despite opposition from the residents of the affected areas.
“A lot of mining firms conduct black sand mining under the cover of dredging permits. Safeguards must be put in place to prevent this abuse of dredging permits,” she said.
When she was justice secretary, an inter-agency group led by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted raids on illegal black sand mining operations, as a result of which, complaints were filed against individuals, including Chinese nationals.
The neophyte senator also expressed concern over the plight of people living near the mining sites where they suffer illnesses, their houses destroyed, and their livelihood compromised.
“Erosion has been noted in areas near black sand mining operations. Communities are slowly crumbling because of magnetite mining. In communities within these mining operations, there have been cases of severe eye infections and hernia. Farmers and fisherfolk now yield smaller harvests and catch,” she said.
Under her proposed measure, mining firms will be required to dispose dredge materials in government-controlled landfills to prevent black sand from being passed off as waste.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau will also have to check on the presence of black sand before dredging permits can be issued to miners.
Any person or firm found guilty of black sand mining may be jailed for six to 12 years and fined from P1 to 10 million, according to the bill.
De Lima said she believes her proposed measure is an effective step toward ridding one form of environmental plunder with stiff penalty and heavy fines.
“Through the passage of this bill, not only are we able to penalize those who plunder our natural resources, the government will be able to properly regulate mining and other related activities,” she said.