BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Cagayan Valley (Region 2) said it has allowed a London-based mining firm to start commercial production at its mine site with an estimated 1.3 million ounces of gold for 10 years.
Engineer Mario Ancheta, MGB Region 2 director, on Sunday said he approved the commercial operations of FCF Minerals Corporation in Runruno, Quezon town, after the company complied with the mining standards set by the Philippine government.
The company’s Declaration of Commencement of Commercial Operations (DCCO) was signed on July 17, after more than a decade of exploration and development.
Owned 100 percent by the British Metals Exploration Plc, FCF Minerals operates the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project, one of the two large-scale mining projects in Nueva Vizcaya, 280 kilometers north of Manila.
The other one is the Melbourne-based OceanaGold’s Didipio Gold and Copper Project in Kasibu, which started commercial operations in April 2013. It is located 40 kilometers from FCF-Runruno.
MGB officials said FCF Minerals intended to start commercial operations in 2016, but the plan was delayed as the company was still working on its compliance requirements.
Last September, the company submitted its DCCO, “but we needed to conduct validation and wait for the results of its debugging [test run],” Ancheta said.
In 2015, the MGB suspended the construction work on the FCF Minerals Residual Storage Impoundment (RSI) after it was damaged by Typhoon Lando.
“We had to issue a suspension order because we cannot allow mining companies in the Cagayan Valley region to continue for lack of compliance congruent with our existing mining laws and regulations,” Ancheta said.
The company has complied with the demand to present a rehabilitation plan on the damaged RSI and a clean-up plan on the Malilibeg dumpsite. After the series of verification and validation, the suspension was lifted in April 2015, the MGB noted.
“We lifted the suspension for rehabilitation purposes with corresponding conditions that are part of the lifting order,” Ancheta said.
That same year, then-DENR Secretary Jose Atienza Jr. endorsed the conversion of the exploration permit into a 25-year Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) which was renewable for another 25 years.
Ancheta said the FTAA gave FCF Minerals the exclusive right to explore, mine, utilize and transport the mineral products from the contract area.
The company also applied for a Sworn Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF).
“After conducting our initial evaluation, we endorsed said application to our central office for further review,” Ancheta said.
On October 18, 2011, the DENR approved the $700-million DMPF and allowed the company to proceed with the mining development stage.
Peter Storey, FCF-Runruno operations manager, said the company has spent over $149 million for the construction and development stage.
“This is in addition to hundreds of millions of peso worth of projects the company committed as part of its Community Development Program (CDP),” he said.
A feasibility study showed the project has the potential to mine an average of 96,700 ounces of gold per year in 10 years of the mine life at an average operating cost of $477 per ounce.
Storey said the Runruno project was developed as a surface-cut-and-fill mine with an adjacent processing plant utilizing the biological oxidation (BIOX) method as well as carbon-in-leach processes to recover gold and molybdenum.
In the Philippines, FCF Minerals is the first to use the BIOX green technology which oxidizes the ore and make the gold available for conventional recovery methods.
The method involves using a culture of naturally-occurring soil bacteria which promotes oxidation reactions in an aqueous environment.
“The surface mine is being progressively rehabilitated and will be progressively backfilled as the mine stages are developed, leaving behind terraced and rehabilitated areas that can be used for future beneficial use,” Storey said.
He said the company is taking major steps to transform the previous negative stigma of mining into a positive undertaking by complying with responsible mining standards.
“We are committed to the effective stewardship, protection and enhancement of the resource endowments in and around the areas where we operate,” Storey said.
He said the company conducts business in a manner which continuously upholds human development and dignity.