After a steep fall in the previous year, the value of the country’s metal output rebounded in 2013 on the back of stronger nickel output and a recovery in the gold sector, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.
The MGB noted that the recovery in metal output value came despite falling prices of precious and base metals in 2013.
MGB director Leo Jasareno said the value of metallic mineral production reached P99.33 billion in 2013, up slightly from P99.04 billion in the previous year.
Nickel (direct shipping ore and sulfides) contributed 41.31 percent or P41.04 billion to total production value, while gold accounted for 32.66 percent or P32.44 billion. Silver, zinc, chromite and iron ore made up the remaining 3.25 percent or P3.50 billion.
To recall, metals output dropped by almost 20 percent in 2012 following the suspension of key mining projects and lower gold purchases by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Among the operations suspended during the year were the Padcal Copper-Gold Project of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet; the Nonoc Nickel Project of Shuley Mines Inc. and Pacific Niclek Philippines Inc. in Surigao del Norte; the Leyte Magnetite Project of Nicua Corp. in Leyte; and the Paracale Gold Project of Johson Gold Mining Corp. in Camarines Norte.
The MGB said the value of documented gold output of small-scale miners also fell by 93 percent in 2012, as reflected in the purchases made by the BSP during the year, pulling down the overall gold production value by half.
The entry of the Didipio Copper-Gold Project of Oceanagold Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya to the production stream in 2013 gave a boost to gold production, Jasareno said.
He said the mine’s reported output was 2,069 kilograms valued at an estimated P3.83 billion. The gold-copper mine has an estimated 34.82 million metric tons of ore reserve with an average grade of 1.7 grams/ton Au and 0.56 percent Cu.
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.’s Teresa Gold Project in Benguet Province also resumed production in March 2013 and further enhanced overall gold output, Jasareno said. By volume, total production at the project rose 18 percent to 17,248 kilograms from 14,596 kilograms in 2012.
Mixed nickel sulfide ore production was stable in 2013 with the entry of Taganito Mining Corp.’s new hydrometallurgical processing plant in October 2013. This plant employs high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) technology, the second in the country, after that of Coral Bay Nickel Corp. in Bataraza, Palawan.
The project is located in the Municipality of Claver in Surigao del Norte. With limonite as raw material, TMC produces nickel/cobalt mixed sulfide. The plant is designed to produce 30,000 tons of nickel and 2,640 tons of cobalt as mixed sulfide annually.
Taganito’s mineral reserve is estimated at 80 million dry metric tons, averaging 1.16 percent nickel and 0.11 percent cobalt, enough to sustain production at its planned capacity for a period of 26 years.
Per records of the US Geological Survey, the Philippines was the biggest producer of nickel ore of the world in 2012, MGB said.
Jasareno said that the main difficulty in 2013 was the decline in metal prices. He said world market prices of the precious metals gold and silver, and the base metals copper and nickel, fell during the year.
The average price of gold went down by 15.19 percent to $1,416.10 per troy ounce in 2013 from $1,669.71 per troy ounce in 2012. Meanwhile, the price of nickel fell 15.20 percent to $6.78 per pound in 2013 from $7.99 per pound in 2012.