MV BK Champ from Port of Iligan arrived on June 17 at the Port of Larap, Mambulao, CamNorte to load iron ore allegedly mined by Investwell at its mining claims in Larap. Reports said it is about to load 27 metric tons of iron ore. The vessel, of South Korean registry, was monitored by the Marine Traffic. – Picture courtesy of Facebook/Rommel Ibasco Fenix
By ALREDO P HERNANDEZ
THE mining district of Mambulao in CamNorte, has been thrust into a new controversy when a miner it hosts – Investwell Group of Companies (Investwell) – was found mining illegally.
When discovered, it was about to ship out of the Philippines at least 27 metric tons of iron ore it mined at its mining claims in Larap, outside of Mambulao, according to media reports.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Bicol recently said Investwell was only given mining exploration permit to hunt for minerals within its mining claims in Mambulao.
MGB Bicol Regional Director Romel Pestaño said if Investwell wanted to develop (extract) the minerals, they should apply for another permit that would allow it to do actual iron ore mining.
Pestano said that although Investwell has an MPSA (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement), this document does not give the miner the power or authority to perform actual extraction of iron ore in CamNorte, particularly in Larap.
The MPSA was originally issued to TransAsia Oil and Energy Development on July 28, 2007, which was later acquired by Investwell under a mining deal between the two companies.
Pestano said it (MPSA) only gave the miner permission to perform exploration and apply for the approval of a mining feasibility study that would in turn help them earn a notice to proceed from the MGB.
Pestano said it is only after the notice to proceed is issued that actual mining activities may begin.
He also admitted that they have looked into the investigations done by DENR V on the case where Investwell was found used illegal explosives in a mining operation in Sitio Dawahan, Baranggay Nakalaya, in Mambulao using small-scale mining permits issued to two of its personnel.
He said they have already taken the proper measures by prohibiting Investwell from performing any more mining operations in the said site.
Asked if he believes this would serve as a lesson to Investwell officers here, Pestano said he believes that the moves they had taken would make Investwell think twice about making anymore violations against mining laws here.
He stressed the MGB would not hesitate to withdraw or nullify any mining permits issued to Investwell if it involves in any illegal mining activity in CamNorte.
Meanwhile, the CamNorte provincial government led by Gov Edgardo Tallado, said it has not issued any iron ore transport permit to Investwell, referring to the iron ore stockpile reportedly shipped out of the country.
Tallado is the chairman of the Provincial and City Mining Regulatory Board (PCMRB) which regulates mining activities in Mambulao, Paracale and Labo.
PCMRB also issues small-scale mining permits in the province.
Related to this, the owner of the land being mined by Investwell has asked the House of Representatives to investigate how the miner (Investwell) managed to extract iron ore in its mining claims and ship the minerals outside the country without the CamNorte PCMRB knowing about it.
In a statement, Yinlu Bicol Mining Corp, the landowner, said Investwell has chartered two Chinese vessels to ship out from Mambulao without any permit to transport ore or even environmental clearance certificate to do actual mining operations in Larap.
Investwell claimed it has exported “a great amount of mineral wealth” to China.
In its website, the miner claimed: “We currently have three mining sites based in the region of Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte.”
The municipal government of Mambulao headed by Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla has yet to react to the report.
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