METALLIC mineral production value dropped by more than a tenth in the first three quarters of the year amid the government’s tough crackdown on mining operations, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said on Monday.
In a report, MGB said that the total value of minerals produced by large mining operations declined by 11 percent to P75.93 billion in January-September 2016, from P85.47 billion during the same period a year ago.
The agency attributed the decrease to weak prices of base metals coupled with the suspension of some nickel operations in the provinces of Palawan and Zambales.
Gold continued to be the biggest contributor to the total metallic mineral production value with 44 percent or P33.57 billion, followed by nickel with 37 percent or P28.21 billion, and copper with 18 percent or P13.32 billion. The remaining 1 percent or P0.84 billion came from the collective values of silver, chromite and iron ore.
During the period, the average prices of nickel and copper tumbled 30.65 percent and 20.49 percent,
respectively. The price of nickel was pegged at $3.95 per pound (lbs) from $5.70 per pound; while the copper price was at $2.04 per pound, from $2.57 per pound.
Precious metals, on the other hand, continued to post steady increase – gold registering a 6.49 percent increase and silver with 6.36 percent, respectively. The price of the yellow metal stood at $1,256.58 per ounce while silver or white metal prices averaged $17.05 per ounce.
After months of delays and hiccups, Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez said that they will release the result of the mine audit on December 15, with expectations that more mines will be suspended following further review.
The crackdown is aimed at enforcing stricter environmental protection measures, with tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte warning in August that the nation could survive without a mining industry.
Since it launched the audit on July 8, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended about 10 mines, eight of them nickel producers, for environmental lapses.
Another 20 mines are facing possible suspension for environmental violations, unsystematic mining methods and outstanding social issues.
More suspensions expected
Among those recommended for suspension are the following: Libjo Mining Corp., AAM-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp. – Parcel 1 and Parcel 2B, Krominco Inc., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., Filminera Resources Corp., Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp., Sinosteel Philippines HY Mining Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., and Wellex Mining Corp.
Also included in the recommendation for suspension are Century Peak Corp. – Rapid City Nickel Project and Casiguran Nickel Project, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp., and CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Agata Mining Ventures Inc., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Benguet Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., OceanaGold Phils, Inc., Adnama MiningResources, Inc., and SR Metals, Inc.
The number of suspended miners and those to be issued with recommendation for suspension represents about three quarters of the total operating mines in the country.
Of these 30 mines, 18 are nickel producers that account for 55.5 percent of the country’s total nickel ore output based on last year’ s production.
Meanwhile, the MGB said that the individual performance of the nickel mines was significantly affected by the sluggish price of nickel in the international market.
“In September 2016 alone, we saw nickel price nosedive to $2.67 per pound, the lowest price to be recorded since 2002. Nickel price went down by as much as 30 percent since the start of the year from $3.84 per lb. in January 2016 to $2.67 per pound in September 2016,” it said.
The six nickel mines that are currently suspended include: Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation (Sta. Cruz-Candelaria Mining Project); BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. (Sta. Cruz Nickel Mining Project); Eramen Minerals Inc. (Sta. Cruz Mining Project); LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (Sta. Cruz Mining Project); Berong Nickel Corporation (Berong Nickel Project); and Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation (Toronto and Pulot Nickel Projects).
These nickel mines account for about 10 percent of the total nickel production of the country.
Similarly, the mining operation of Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation, the lone iron ore producer in country located in the province of Bulacan, was also suspended last August 2016.