Locals want ban on export of mineral ore

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/13 October) – Residents and officials in Surigao del Norte are supporting the proposed ban on the export of mineral ore, claiming it is more advantageous if the minerals were processed here.

“Sending raw mine materials abroad has less value than having them processed here,” Jun Arevalo, a resident of Claver town said, as he cited the increase in job opportunities that followed the opening last month of the Taganito High Pressure Acid Leach Plant in neighboring Taganito town.

Exporting the ore, he said, is a “double whammy.”

“The mountains are bald plus the locals especially the fisherfolk have lost their livelihood because of the wanton destruction wrought by their activity. Why can’t we have downstream industries here like what the THPAL does?” he Arevalo said.

Loloy Patac, a Mamanwa in Claver said it is good that the minerals are processed here because the processing plant generates employment.

THPAL Nickel Corporation started its operations last September 4, 2013 and employs at least 2,000 workers. The company is now producing nickel sulfide and cobalt sulfide for export to Japan.

Taganito Mining Company, Platinum Group Metal Corporation, Adnama Mining Corporation and the Taganito Mining Corporation are still exporting raw ore.

Rep. Francisco Matugas (1st district Surigao del Norte), has re-filed his bill “Promoting the development of mineral processing and in the process of banning the export of iron, nickel, chromite, manganese, and other metallic ores and for other purposes.”

The bill was filed in the 15th Congress but didn’t reach the Senate, said Matugas, now chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“The Philippines has not developed the downstream mining industry to focus on the final stages of the minerals value chain and encourage the establishment and development of processing plants that use new process in manufacturing mineral ores,” he said

“It is well to note that the industrialization of the Philippines mineral industry is included in the long-term plan of action of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). We should help the MGB promote the downstream process and manufacturing of metals such as copper, nickel, gold, and chromite, develop community based-supplier industries and services, improve government benefits for the mining industry and control the export of unprocessed minerals,” Matugas stressed.

Claver town mayor Eddie P. Gokiangkee told MindaNews that the town should come up with an ordinance banning the export of raw materials.

Gokiangkee pointed out that THPAL boosts the local economy and that of the other neighboring towns.

He said they want to ensure that the 1.6 billion U.S. dollar investment would last long by preventing the shipment of the ore to Japan and China.

Environment Undersecretary Jose Ferrer, Jr.  told MindaNews that he personally likes the idea of banning the export of ore.

Indonesia, he said, has a law banning the export of ore.

“The reason here is to encourage setting up mineral processing facilities in their country and naturally the Philippines must come up with the same law,”  Ferrer explained.

Ferrer said the establishment of processing plants would generate more taxes and more opportunities.

According to data form the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Caraga region, mining companies here are eyeing 840 shipments of nickel ore this year alone.

One shipment alone weighs at least 50,000 metric tons. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)