ASEAN: PH to fuel region’s rise as ‘global mining force’

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (MindaNews/02 April) – The Philippines could fuel Southeast Asia’s emergence as a “global mining force” within the next few years with an estimated US$1 trillion worth of mineral resources yet to be tapped for development.

In an investment book released by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines, specifically several areas in Mindanao, was noted as among the areas in Southeast Asia that holds “vast wealth of important industrial ores and precious metals yet to be exploited.”

It said that while the region presently hosts a number of large mining ventures, the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources have barely started.

“The Philippines, for example, is estimated to possess at least US$1 trillion of untapped mineral resources and much of the country’s 300,000 square kilometers of land is yet to be appraised for its mineral content,” cited the book “Investing in ASEAN 2011-2012.”

The book was published by media, marketing and public relations firm Allurentis Limited in partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat.

It was initially launched last November and was distributed at the ongoing two-day 2nd ASEAN-EU (European Union) Business Summit at the Hotel Sofitel here.

The book said the Philippines specifically hosts huge resources of nickel, along with high-grade chromite, copper and gold.

Presently, prospecting for gold and high value industrial ores like copper has become an important investment focus in the country that reportedly possesses gold ore reserves of about four billion tons, the third largest globally.

The country reportedly hosts about 7.9 billion tons of copper ore deposits and 815 million tons of nickel that represent the fourth and the fifth largest in the world, respectively.

“Gold and copper are mainly concentrated in North Luzon and on the eastern side of the island of Mindanao. Other deposits are found on Negros, Zambales, Cebu and South Cotabato,” it said.

In Mindanao, it said London-based Anglo American “has been linked” to a potential US$1-billion project to develop the copper and gold deposits in Boyongan, Surigao del Norte.

BHP Billiton has reportedly been exploring for nickel in the island while Xstrata, which it described as one of the world’s largest copper producers, has invested on the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato.

“The company is also evaluating a five million tons a year copper project in the area,” it said.

The book said another “potential giant venture” will be Sumitomo’s US$ billion nickel ore project in Surigao del Norte.

It said the project will host the largest nickel processing plant in the country that would be capable of processing some 45,000 tons a year.

“These projects will push the Philippines to reach the status of a mining country, when its mine exports (eventually) total more than 6% of total exports,” the book said.

In terms of investments in the mining sector, it said the country’s laws have been complementing with the development strategies of foreign capital that were coming in.

“Investment in the Philippines’ mining potential has been aided by a court decision confirming the right of foreign companies to retain 100% ownership of their investment, to exploit the country’s mineral
resources,” it added.

The publication’s release came at the heels of the national government’s drafting of a new mining rule, which is reportedly aimed at rooting out corruption and improving environmental protection in the mining sector.

On Saturday, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told reporters here that the new mining rule will likely be issued within the next two months.

But Purisima, who attended a meeting of ASEAN finance ministers here in preparation for the 20th summit of ASEAN leaders and heads of states on Tuesday and Wednesday, assured that the government will allow the existing mining contracts to move forward but will later be subjected to stricter environmental regulations. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)