A group of Japanese investors is considering dropping a plan, at least for now, to ship tsunami debris from Japan to Pagan but it still wants to mine pozzolan on the island, a local associate of the group, along with government officials, said yesterday.
Minoru Imai, treasurer/secretary of Pagan (CNMI) Development Corp. which has been helping the Japanese investors, said the Japanese government itself has concerns about shipping tsunami debris to other areas outside Japan such as to the U.S. island of Pagan.
This, coupled with environmental and other concerns from other entities, led the group of investors not to prioritize shipping tsunami debris to Pagan, he said.
“Right now the priority is mining pozzolan on Pagan. But after all the concerns from the Japanese government and others about transporting recyclable tsunami debris are addressed, then they will still consider bringing tsunami debris to Pagan,” Imai told Saipan Tribune.
The group of Japanese investors, including Kansai Oil Co., New Energy Corp., Asia Mining Development PTE and Kanakyo Kaizen Kiko Co., earlier said that after a preliminary visit to Pagan, they are looking at leasing for 10 to 15 years roughly 2,000 hectares of public land on Pagan to mine what they consider “best quality” pozzolan and to recycle pre-treated tsunami debris that they plan to bring in from Japan.
Pozzolan is a siliceous volcanic ash used to produce hydraulic cement. Pagan has tons of pozzolan as a result of volcanic eruption in 1981.
Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan), who has been advocating the Japanese investor group's business proposal, insisted that the shipment of recyclable tsunami debris from Japan to Pagan will help reduce the exorbitant cost of shipping mined pozzolan from Pagan to Japan.
He said the costly shipping cost has been the main culprit behind unsuccessful plans by investors to mine Pagan of pozzolan.
Tenorio, a former governor and speaker, said the current freight charge for shipping pozzolan is estimated at $50 to $60 per metric ton.
“But if tsunami debris is brought from Japan to Pagan, the amount that the investors gets out of that could help cut by half that shipping cost,” he said in an interview after a House session yesterday afternoon.
The Japanese investors would not only get paid by the Japanese government for disposing of the debris, but also profit from the sale of the pozzolan in Japan which, according to Tenorio, has a demand for pozzolan these days. The debris is from the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said the Fitial administration has learned that the Japanese investor groups' focus “is now shifted toward pozzolan mining on Pagan.”
He reiterated that the administration has not received official communication, including any business plan or formal proposal, from the investors.
“Like any proposal or plans that may come about for Pagan and any of the Northern Islands, the administration will always take into consideration environmental impacts. We will always do due diligence and whatever assessment needs to be done before we move forward any further,” he said.
He said the administration wants an assessment of the quality of pozzolan on Pagan and the volume of pozzolan available.
“There could be 1 million, there could be a hundred [million metric tons],” he said, adding that whoever gets a contract will have to conduct these assessments which he said the government cannot fund on its own because of its cash-strapped condition.
Another consideration is the planned resettlement of Pagan.
But Tenorio said the CNMI government should not build homesteads on Pagan because it remains unsafe for permanent dwelling.
Demapan also pointed to an ongoing court case involving a holder of a mining permit and the CNMI government.
“Those are the things you need to get over before we can reach any concrete plan to proceed forward with any investment involving pozzolan,” he added.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) separately said yesterday that he has been opposed to such a plan to bring tsunami debris to Pagan.
“I am concerned about the protection of the environment and maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of our islands and the ocean surrounding us. So a proposal to dump another country’s waste products on Pagan or on any of our islands is not something that I can support,” he said.
Some residents are expressing opposition to what they describe as the “desecration” of Pagan by turning it into a dumping ground.