• PH metals output up 17% in Q1, led by gold

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    THE country’s mining sector is off to a good start as metallic minerals production value increased by nearly a fifth in the first quarter of the year, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) reported on Tuesday.

    MGB Director Leo Jasareno, citing latest statistics, said that Philippine metallic minerals production value reached P21.98 billion in January to March 2014, reflecting an 17.11 percent increase from P18.77 billion recorded a year earlier.

    The gold sector was the top gainer during the period, accounting for 38.56 percent of the total production value of P8.48 billion.

    Last year, production of the yellow metal slipped 43.3 percent in the first quarter. Gold production fell below estimates in 2012 after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas imposed higher excise tax on the gold output of small-scale miners.

    Jasareno attributed the substantial increase in the gold sector in the first quarter of 2014 to the operations of major projects such as Didipio Gold Project of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya; Toledo Copper Project of Carmen Copper Corporation in Cebu; and the Padcal Copper-Gold Project of Philex Mining Corporation in Benguet.

    The remaining 2.34 percent, or P0.51 billion, came from the combined values of silver, zinc, iron ore, and chromite. Iron ore from small-scale mining operations amounted to about P0.32 billion.

    “The slow start of direct shipping nickel ore was attributed to the unfavorable weather condition that generally prevailed in the areas of Dinagat and Surigao Provinces during the start of the year,” Jasareno said.

    The MGB chief said that of the 27 nickel mining projects in the country, 18 are operating in the said areas, and of these 18 projects, 11 reported zero production for the first three months of 2014.

    Unlike the previous year’s upbeat showing of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) in Albay, and the Canatuan Mining Project of TVI Resource Development in Zamboanga del Norte, both major producers of copper, gold and silver, the first quarter of 2014 was quite dismal as RRPI had zero production; while TVI posted output only in January.

    “RRPI has completed its mining operation last year and has just started its final mine rehabilitation activities. TVI has ceased mining operation in mid-January after its ore reserves have been exhausted,” Jasareno noted.

    The government expects metallic mineral output to further increase following the new mining projects that will start this year including Vitali Iron Ore Mining Project of Atro Mining, Vitali Inc. in Zamboanga City with a mine life of 10 years; Libjo Nickel Laterite Project of East Coast Mineral Resources Co., Inc. in Dinagat Island with a mine life of 10; and Agata Nickel Laterite Project of Minimax Mineral Exploration Corp. in Agusan del Norte with 11 years.

    Total investments of the three projects are estimated at P1.46 billion, and all are covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements.

    Jasareno said prices of leading metals gold, silver, copper and nickel were less upbeat in first quarter of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013. “Gold went down by as much as 20.77 percent from $1,631.81 to $1,292.93 per troy ounce. The average gold price may hover around the $1,300 per troy ounce level. Base metals nickel and copper declined by 15.23 percent and 11.10 percent, respectively.”

    The MGB chief said that demand from the jewelry industry, technology, investment demand, and BSP purchases will continue to fuel growth in the gold sector.

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