MANILA - The rise in commodity prices and fruitful results from individual explorations have made key stakeholders of the local mining industry more optimistic about prospects in the Philippines.
For instance, TVI Pacific Inc. of Canada is set to expand production in the country to include zinc concentrates. The company, through its local partner TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc., will allot some $2.5 million to $3.5 million to design the zinc circuit in Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte.
The amount is part of TVI's $4-million allotment for exploration activities within the next 6 months.
"We plan a fairly aggressive program next year. We are very optimistic, there's been a major upturn in the world economy, and an uptick in mineral prices as well," TVI Pacific President Clifford James said.
At the same time, Oslo-based Intex Resources is planning to raise funds for a $2.4-billion nickel project in Mindoro province, with its feasibility study in the area set to be completed by year-end. The exploration area has estimated reserves of more than 2 million tons of nickel.
"The long-term proces of nickel are creeping upward, and we're confident about the prospects that the Philippines offers in this. There is new demand for nickel laterite ore from Asia, this should be an attraction in the market," Intex President Erlend Grimstad said.
For its part, nickel laterite player Rusina Mining said it will be spending $500 million over the next 2 years for the development of the Acoje mine in Zambales province. The company is currently in talks with prospective local partners for the project, and aims to begin feasibility studies by the second half of next year.
"The investment climate here has improved since 2004, with the creation of the Minerals Development Counil. It has smoothened out several issues in the industry before," Rusina Chief Executive Officer Robert Gregory said.
According to Chamber of Mines President Benjamin Romualdez, the demand for minerals is on the rise as the global economy starts to recover from the crisis.
"In general, the movement now is one of guarded optimism. But the Philippines has an advantage in the logistics business, where China and India, areas of mining growth in the region, are right next door. The Philippines has a strong competitive advantage there," he said.
Romualdez said, however, that the Philippines has lost a number of business opportunities as anti-mining groups continue to stall projects. He added that the mining sector is also threatened by the upcoming 2010 elections as politicking between candidates and stakeholders may delay ongoing and future projects.
"We have lost so many good business opportunities because of the negativism that has stuck onto investors' minds. They would rather invest in Africa, where it's easier, than repeat a project in the Philippines," he said.
Given these, Romualdez said the Chamber of Mines is working with the local government and other organizations on an industry guidebook to promote a better understanding of processes and regulations in the mining sector. The guidebook is seen to be completed by next year. - By Michelle Orosa, ABS-CBN News