DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) data showed that Philippine metallic production value posted a strong 56% growth during the first quarter of the year, from P11.13 billion to P17.38 billion the same period last year. The country’s metal output has been on the uptrend since 2002 due to the demand-driven rise in world metal prices.
Five nickel mines, four gold mines, three chromite mines, a copper mine, a nickel plant, and numerous small-scale gold mining operations round up the current production loop, with gold producers getting the lion’s share of the sales with 63%, followed by nickel concentrate with 19%, copper with 9% and nickel direct shipping ore with 8%. Nickel production is expected to further boost this year and next with the expansion of two of the currently operating priority projects, the HPP Palawan Nickel Project and Berong Nickel Project.
With the continuous uptrend in production, the DENR is optimistic on achieving a projected 8.6% mining exports share to total exports by 2010—a figure that would elevate the Philippines to a “mining country.” Based on 2002 World Bank study, a country can be called a “mining country” if its mining industry contributes at least 6% to the total exports.
Projections were based on the production and exports data of currently producing mines and the schedule set by the 23 priority minerals development projects. Sales forecast this year was pegged at US$1.36 billion, and is seen to increase next year to US$1.454 when a mining boom is seen to take place. Mineral production value is projected to increase sharply to US$5.34 billion by the time all of the 23 priority projects shall have already been on stream in 2010.
The Revitalization of the Minerals Industry Program, which is anchored on the principles of sustainable development, was launched in 2003 in line with the President Arroyo’s policy shift from tolerance to promotion of responsible mining. The policy shift considered the potential of mining as a catalyst to economic growth and development, and helping poverty reduction particularly in the countryside.
23 priority projects
In line with the revitalization program, 23 mining projects in the most advance stage were included in the list of priority development projects. The government projects to generate US$6.7 billion in mining investments from its 23 priority projects alone by 2010.
Of the 23 priority projects, six are producing or expanding, two are in the construction and development stage, 10 are either undergoing feasibility studies or finalizing financial options, three are under exploration, and three are for bidding.
The producing mines are the Palawan HPP Project in Palawan, the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay, the Canatuan Gold Project in Zamboanga del Norte, the Teresa Gold Project and the Tomas Copper Project both in Benguet, and the Berong Nickel Project in Palawan.
Projects under construction and development are the ACT Nickel Project and the Didipio Copper Project in Nueva Vizcaya.
Undergoing feasibility studies or finalizing financial options are Masbate Gold, Carmen Copper, King-King Copper-Gold, Far Southeast Copper, Itogon Gold, Tampakan Copper, Colet Copper, Siana Gold, Nonoc Nickel, and Akle Cement projects.
Under exploration are Boyongan Copper Project, Mindoro Nickel Project and the Hallmark Nickel Project.
For bidding are the Diwalwal Copper Project, Amacan Copper Project and the Batong Buhay Copper-Gold Project.
The mining industry is facing a major takeoff this year and is seen to boom next year as five of the world’s major mining players are now in the country doing exploration and mining development.
These companies include Xstrata Plc., Anglo American Ltd, Phelps Dodge, Chemical Vapor Metal Refining (CVMR) and BHP Billiton.
Xstrata had bought 62.5% of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato, while Anglo American Ltd has just expanded its exploration program to include the Bayugo Gold Prospect of Manila Mining Corp., a property adjacent to its existing Boyungan exploration area. Phelps Dodge, on the other hand, is actively doing grassroots exploration in various parts of the country. CVMR’s is set to conduct exploration after its permit to explore nickel deposits has recently been approved. The company is also looking at the feasibility of putting up a nickel refinery in the country. BHP Billiton, in a joint venture with Filipino mining companies, is currently exploring a large area of nickeliferrous laterite deposit in Davao Oriental that might lead to the establishment of nickel processing plant.
Other foreign companies that expressed interest in the Philippines are: Oceana Gold Ltd; Citic Group of China; JOGMEC of Japan; Medusa Mining Ltd; CGA Resources; Royalco Resources; Anvil Resources; Jinchuan of China; Jilin of China; Ivanhoe; and CVRD.
Since the implementation of the revitalization program in 2003, a total of US$694 million in investments and around 6,500 jobs have been generated from the 23 mining projects. The DENR is taking the lead in implementing the revitalization program for the minerals industry, one of the priority economic agenda of the administration of President Arroyo.
The Philippines, being situated along that well-defined belt of volcanoes called the circum-Pacific rim of fire that extends from the tip of South America to North America, East Asia and Oceana. This belt is also an extensive and continuous zone where tectonic plates collide. More importantly, these processes of volcanism and plate convergence, as geologists claim, resulted in the formation of abundant and important metallic mineral deposits of gold, copper, iron, chromite, nickel, cobalt, and platinum. The areas defining this belt are the primary producers of copper and gold in the world today.
It is not surprising therefore that, in a per square inch proportion, our country may rank as one of the most mineral-endowed in the world.