After Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos pressed Japanese investors yesterday about their decision to pick Pagan over other Northern Islands to bring tons of tsunami debris from Japan, the visiting businessmen had a startling answer: to be able to mine millions of tons of pozzolan on the island and ship them off to Japan.
Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan), who was also in the same meeting with Fitial and Inos, later said that the CNMI will be able to generate more revenue from accepting millions of metric tons of tsunami debris from Japan than in selling pozzolan from Pagan.
Pozzolan is a siliceous volcanic ash used to produce hydraulic cement.
“We can find other buyers of pozzolan, but in my opinion we'll get much more from bringing in debris from Japan. The Japanese government pays for the disposal of tsunami debris. So this private company is the one talking to the Japanese prefectures that still could not recover because they don't know where to put the debris,” Tenorio told Saipan Tribune.
Isamu Tokuichi, executive director of Asia Mining Development PTE Ltd., and Yukio Oita, chief executive officer and representative director of Kankyo Kaizen Kiko Co. Ltd, led a six-member investor team in meeting with Fitial, Inos, and Tenorio on Capital Hill.
Tenorio, after the meeting, said Tokuichi and the rest of the group are firm in buying tons of pozzolan and sell them in Japan.
Tokuichi's Asia Mining Development is willing to invest some $20 million in equipment alone to mine pozzolan on Pagan.
But to offset hefty costs of shipping tons of pozzolan, these Japanese investors are willing to bring tons of tsunami debris from different tsunami-ravaged Japanese prefectures-for a fee-on their way to Pagan.
Inos, in an interview after the meeting, said these “ideas” from the visiting Japanese investors are interesting.
But he said the Fitial administration has not received any business plan from the group.
“We don't have anything from them. So we asked them to give is some kind of project plan, business plan,” Inos said in an interview after signing 10 of 11 proclamations yesterday afternoon.
Inos said the Fitial administration is not rendering any decision just yet.
“We didn't tell them 'no', if that's what you mean, but we didn't tell them 'yes' either,” he added.
He said the administration would like to know more about the types of materials the Japanese investors plan to bring and international laws governing transportation of debris from one country to another, among other things.
The investors reiterated that they would bring non-toxic and non-radioactive debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.
“They're only interested in Pagan, and they want to buy pozzolan, which will be loaded into ships that will be empty after bringing debris to the island,” Tenorio said.
Tenorio, a former governor and speaker, said the Japanese investors are expected to share more about their plans after they fly from Pagan today.
“They intend to lease the whole island but maybe after their trip to Pagan and realize it's a big island, they might just opt to lease only a portion of it. They were talking about millions of metric tons of debris,” Tenorio added.
Tenorio said if this undertaking gets off the ground, it would mean millions of dollars of fresh revenues for the CNMI's ailing economy and also help Japan in its recovery.