MAC: Mines and Communities

Government To Answer Mining Concerns "point By Point"

Published by MAC on 2006-09-13

Gov't to answer mining concerns 'point by point


13th September 2006

THE GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZES policy concerns raised by the Chamber of Mines and is prepared to respond point by point, a senior official yesterday said.

He refused further comment, however, and said the government is currently concentrating on welcoming a delegation of prospective mining investors from South Africa.

"The [Environment] secretary and I have talked about it and we have decided that we will respond to it point by point," Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Horacio Ramos told Business World.

The Chamber of Mines has postponed an international investment conference scheduled next month, citing a perceived policy shift by the government in promoting the industry.

The low-key visit of South African investors has been cited as an indication of how the government has changed its attitude from its earlier gung-ho drive to attract mining investments.

The South African visitors are in the country following an invitation by Environment Secretary Angelo T. Reyes earlier this year. Mr. Reyes, immediately after his appointment to the department's top spot in February, spoke at the INDABA mining conference in South Africa.

That meet is considered to be one of the biggest in the world and Mr. Reyes was described as the first Asian minister to address the said conference.

Mr. Reyes declined to comment yesterday, as did other senior officials from the Trade department and Malacañang.

A mining chamber source confirmed that the South African businessmen are looking for prospective investments. They are scheduled to visit the Padcal mines of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet today and are also expected to meet with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is currently out of the country.

The MGB has refused to elaborate on the visit of the South African delegation, saying they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

Following the INDABA conference, four large firms, ranked among the top ten in the world, were said to have expressed their intent to develop new mining projects in the Philippines.

These firms were identified as Harmony Gold Mining Ltd., Anglo Gold Ashanti Ltd., Anglo American Exploration Pty. Ltd. and Rand Gold and Exploration Ltd.

Of the four, Anglo American Exploration Pty. Ltd. already has a presence in the Philippines, via a partnership with Silangan Mindanao Mining Corp. at the Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte. The Boyongan mining project is one of the administration's 24 priority mining projects.

Mining chamber president Benjamin G. Romualdez has claimed that the government's uncertain policy stance has "stymied" investments. He said it is important to note that most committed investments are already here.

In July, the MGB reported that about half of the expected $122 million in investments this year have been infused in 24 priority projects. Mining investments as of May 2006 totaled US$47.91 million.

The MGB said investments will most likely reach the US$122-million mark given outlays for at least three projects - the Didipio Copper-Gold Project in Nueva Vizcaya, and the Siana Gold Project and the Adlay - Cagdianao - Tandawa Project in Surigao del Norte. .

The Palawan Nickel Project was to account for the bulk of the investment at $22.71 million. The project is a joint-venture partnership between Filipino firm Coral Bay Nickel Corp. and Japanese mining firm Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. Sumitomo invested $180 million in October 2005 to put up a new nickel processing plant in Rio Tuba, Palawan, seeking to double production to 20,000 metric tons over the next three years.

The Tampakan Copper Project of Filipino firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. and Australian partner Indophil Resources, meanwhile, was to account for about $8 million of expected 2006 investments.

Another $21 million is expected to be added to the Tampakan project. Indophil managing director Tony Robbins has said this amount will be used for the pre-feasibility - study of the Tampakan reserves.

The 24 mining projects, designated as priorities, are set for full production by 2010. MGB show four are currently operating: the Palawan Nickel Project, Teresa Gold Project, Canatuan Silver-Gold Project, and the Sto. Tomas II Copper Expansion Project. The rest are at various stages of development and construction.

The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, operated by Australian miner Lafayette Philippines Inc., was the first to be commissioned. Its operations, however, have been disrupted by a mine spill last October.

That incident has prompted calls for the government to review the Mining Act of 1995, which the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 as allowing 100% foreign ownership of mineral ventures.

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