MANILA — Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” B. Benitez on Saturday said that the country is losing billions of dollars as a result of the trade imbalance arising from the cheap export price of magnetite sand as raw materials vis-à-vis the expensive cost of processed products imported from other countries using said raw materials.
This is the reason why he is encouraging the government to stop the export of magnetite sand or black sand raw materials instead do the processing of the same into high-value products for export.
“Mining companies engaged in magnetite sand mining in Northern Luzon and in other areas of the country with large deposits of the so-called black sand had been reaping huge profits,” Benitez said.
This is why he is pushing for the passage of HB 4760 or the proposed “Magnetite Sand Processing Act of 2014,” which prohibits the exportation of raw magnetite sand.
“We are also losing more in terms of unrealized potential revenues that could be derived from the production of high-value products if we shall undertake the advance processing of magnetite sand in the Philippines rather than merely exporting it as raw material,” he argued.
Benitez is proposing to prohibit the export of magnetite sand as raw material to other countries and to require all magnetite mining companies to individually or collectively establish or rent magnetite advance processing plants in the provinces where they are actually conducting extraction/mining operations of magnetite sand.
“Only final marketable forms of the magnetite sand-based products should be allowed for export,” the author stressed.
Magnetite sand, commonly known as black sand, refers to the black colored sand with high concentration of magnetite which is a magnetic and very dense mineral iron.
He added that the passage of this bill will not only create jobs and catalyst economic development in the affected areas where the valuable natural resource is being tapped but shall likewise reduce the volume of extraction to ecologically sustainable levels, pre-empting the adverse environmental impact of mining operations.
“Notwithstanding the current disadvantageous situation wherein the country has not been able to greatly benefit from the exploitation of its abundant magnetite sand resources, the tremendous economic gains that can be derived from it cannot be ignored,” Benitez said.
He even said that no less than Manuel Banaag, the incumbent chief of the Mineral Economics Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has consistently maintained that “mining magnetite, also known as black sand, has the potential of boosting the country’s mineral sector, create more jobs and start the local steel industry rolling.”
Benitez also said such situation could only be achieved if the national government muster the political will to require the establishment of steel manufacturing plants and/or advance processing facilities for magnetite sand in the country.
“Indeed, this will significantly lessen our dependency on imported steel which translates to more infra-structure projects all over the country,” Benitez said.