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MacArthur Metallic / Black Sand Mining, Philippines


MacArthur, a town endowed with rich fertile lands and a lake is threatened by black sand mining. As a result of the mining activities, 70 hectares of irrigated rice fields have been turned into a wasteland.

While some companies, such as the Nicua Mining Corporation, held an official permit to mine black sand, there has been further evidence of illegal black sand mining in the region [1]. Black sand is largely sold to other Asian countries, with China being the biggest buyer [1].

In March 2012, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that contamination from oil and grease from Nicua’s mining operation lead to a massive fish kill in Lake Bito [2]. In June 2012, farmers and fishermen went to court and filed an application for a temporary environmental protection order (EPO) to stop the mining operations of Nicua Mining corporation on prime agricultural land [2]. The villagers are afraid of the irreversible environmental impacts mining has on water sources and how it encroaches their agricultural lands [2].

In response to the contamination of Bito Lake, in August 2012, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) suspended the operation of Chinese firm Nicua Mining Corporation, due to evidence of having used inappropriate mining methods [1]. Moreover, Nicua employed Chinese workers without having permits, and authorized a second party to mine in the area, without permission from MGB [1].

In 2013, in addition to the mining threats, the devastating hurricane Yolanda further destroyed the area, adding new challenges, while black sand mining remains a central threat to the communities [3].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:MacArthur Metallic / Black Sand Mining, Philippines
State or province:Leyte
Location of conflict:MacArthur
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral processing
Aquaculture and fisheries
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:black sand
Iron ore
Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

According to documents of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Nicua Mining Corporation had a Mining Production Sharing Agreeement (MPSA) (Edgar L. Lim) for magnetite sand over 776.8847ha in MacArthur [b], dating back to 02.10.2010. Nicua had for the same region a second MPSA (Vincent Tan Tiong) over 523.566ha [4].

The activities centered on the exploration, development and extraction of magnetite Sand, in order to produce magnetite concentrate [5]. The Mineral resources contained about 12 million DMT of magnetite concentrate, at 10% average magnetite fraction [5].

Before suspension in August 2012, production capacity was reported to amount to 500,000 to 600,000 tons per year [5].

Both MPSAs were suspended on August 17, 2012 by MGB-C.O [4].

A series of other EXPA y IPA applications from Nicua were rejected by the MGB [4].

Project area:7,411.5560
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000-20,000
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Nicua Mining Corporation from China - mining
Leyte Ironsand Mining Corporpation from Philippines - mining
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources Mines and Geoscience Bureau (DENR-MGB)
Department of Agriculture
Local Government Units
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:UNLADBLFA into UNLAD, Bito Lake Fisherfolk and Farmers Association (UNLADBLFFA)
National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA)
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Visayas State University (VSU)
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Project temporarily suspended
Although the mining concesssion of Nicua was suspended after the Lake contamination, black sand mining operations are on-going in the area.
Development of alternatives:The agricultural land should not be allowed to be mined.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Black sand mining continues in the area.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Philippine Mining Act of 1995

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4] Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). List of MPSA, January 2013

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] Presentation on Nicua mining, available by the gelological society of the philippines’s website (accessed 15/04/2015)

[2] PIPLINKS online (27/06/2012): "Farmers, Fisherfolks File Petition For Environmental Protection Order Against Mining"

Brown water, black sand: MacArthur, Leyte’s struggle against mining, Yolanda, and climate change. By Denise M. Fontanilla

[1] GMA News online (03/10/2012): "Mines Bureau to crack down on illegal black sand mining in Cagayan"

[3] ATM Press Release (08/05/2014) "MacArthur, Leyte on the road to development six months after Yolanda, residents say ‘YES to agriculture, NO TO BLACK SAND MINING!’"

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Effects of Mining in MacArthur, Leyte

Other documents

MacArthur Leyte: rising above the challenges of mining and super typhoon Yolanda

villagers protest against black sand mining Source:

Meta information

Contributor:Alyansa Tigil Mina
Last update15/04/2015



villagers protest against black sand mining