Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Philippine mining wealth seen at $840B

Philippine mining wealth seen at $840B
COMP: Security, gov’t policy concerns need to be addressed
By: Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 22, 2011

The Philippines’ potential mining wealth is estimated to reach $840 billion (P47 trillion), or 10 times the country’s annual gross domestic product, according to Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez.

In a speech during a Philippine Mining Club luncheon, Romualdez said the mining industry could also help curb poverty, citing studies that the industry had a multiplier effect of 28 times on employment. This means that for every person directly employed in mining, 28 more jobs are created in allied and downstream industries.

This means the industry’s growth will help reduce unemployment and poverty, which remain the greatest challenges facing the government, he added.

If the country’s entire mining reserves were mined, the total mineral production could amount to $840 billion.

According to industry data, the Philippines ranks third in total gold deposits, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel and sixth in chromite. The country has 8.03 billion tons of copper, 4.91 billion tons of gold, 0.81 billion tons of nickel, 480.26 million tons of iron, 39.66 million tons of chromite and 433.88 million tons of aluminum.

However, Romualdez said concerns about security, tax system and mining policies of the government had limited the entry of foreign and local investments into the industry.

He criticized security-related and other issues that were plaguing the industry, including insurgent attacks on companies, church leaders relating the recent killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio to mining, restrictions imposed by local governments on mining operations and additional taxes planned by the government.

Such uncertainties, which companies have to deal with on top of huge exploration and development costs, have driven many investors away, including mining giants Anglo American and BHP Billiton.

Still, Romualdez said, the chamber would continue to promote and defend the industry. Asked whether companies should beef up security in their areas, he said investors, especially foreigners, were “uncomfortable” with that.

“We don’t want to appear as if we are militarizing our operations and that’s really the responsibility of the state. We will leave that issue to individual companies but we welcome the government’s response to the Surigao incident,” he said.

He said COMP had met with the police, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after insurgents raided and burned the facilities of three mining companies in Surigao del Sur on Oct. 3.

Romualdez said the industry group had also provided inputs and was awaiting Malacañang’s national mining policy.

While this is happening, he said, mining companies were crafting a “Mining Scorecard” on social and environmental programs in partnership with nongovernment organizations and civil society groups, including the nonprofit Philippine Business for Social Progress and environmental protection group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines.