SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 6) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas could develop another source of revenue by exporting Pagan’s volcanic materials from the island of Pagan, a businessman says.

Jesse Palacios, president of Arizona-based Azmar International Inc., said Pagan is one of three volcanoes in the world which has rich deposits of pozzolan—a natural volcanic ash which, when mixed with cement, produces a more durable product.

"Did you know that out of 1,282 volcanoes in the world, only three volcanoes have deposits of rich quality natural pozzolan. Guess where one of three is located? In our own backyard. Pagan has over 200 million tons of pozzolan," Palacios said.

"This is indeed great news considering the condition of our local economy. Tourist figures are as not as impressive as before. Garment orders don’t compare to the good old days. The CNMI is looking for another source of revenue other than tourism and garment manufacturing," he added.

Azmar has already submitted a proposal to the Marianas Public Lands Authority to mine pozzolanic ash on Pagan.

The application remains pending. Previous companies have tried to mine pozzolan on Pagan, but they encountered funding problems.

Palacios said pozzolan is very much in demand in construction materials because of its "concrete-strengthening additive" quality. Should the project push through, he said Azmar will export pozzolan to the United States.

"Some of the major pozzolan concrete projects through the years are: Palo Verde (nuclear) power generating plant in Arizona; Southern Nevada water project; Port of Richmond, California; Chabot Dam in California, and; the piers of the San Francisco Oakland Bay bridge," Palacios said.

Azmar is currently based in Arizona. Kenneth James Moore, a retired investment banker and entrepreneur from Scottsdale, Arizona, discovered the potential of Pagan to mine pozzolan during his trip to the CNMI in 1998 in search for a B-29 bomber called "The Life of Riley" which was piloted by his uncle during World War II, Palacios said.

Palacios said their firm is seeking a two-year permit to conduct the research on Pagan. Within the first six months, Azmar is seeking to exercise the option to convert it into a 20-year permit.

If the mining of pozzolan pushes through, Palacios said Azmar is willing to pay MPLA a royalty fee of 3 percent of all gross revenues from the sales of the volcanic ash.

January 6, 2003

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