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Better prices push up value of metal production even as volumes drop

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Major miners now await Malacañang's final say on moves to lift a seven-month old ban on open-pit mining.

VALUE of metallic mineral output in the country rose in the nine months to September, driven primarily by an increase in world prices of copper, nickel and silver, according to a press release of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on Tuesday.

With the sole exception of mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide, however, output of all other metals dropped in terms of volume in the same period.

Total value of metallic mineral production increased by 6.06% to P81.475 billion as of September from the P76.82 billion recorded in 2016’s comparable nine months on the back of “more favorable metal price levels during the period.” Monthly and quarterly data were not immediately available as of yesterday afternoon.

The report noted that the nine-month average price of gold — which accounted for 42% of total production value — dropped to $1,251.72 per troy ounce (/t oz) from $1,256.71/t oz, while that of direct shipping nickel ore and mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide — which together accounted for 40% — went up to $4.49 per pound (/lb) from $4.17/lb.

The price of copper, which accounted for 17% of total output value, similarly increased to $2.60/lb from $2.14/lb, while that of silver — which together with chromite accounted for just one percent — improved to $17.17/t oz from $17.05/t oz in the same comparable periods.

The statement said that “[t]he encouraging price gain” of base metals like copper and nickel “was primarily due to the increased metal demand of China” — particularly “for its infrastructure, automotive and construction sectors” — leading “to a tighter metals supply in the world market.”

“China remains… the major market of the Philippines for nickel ores,” MGB said in its statement, while “for copper and gold exports, the country’s primary partners were Japan and Switzerland, respectively.”

Only mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide — a raw material for products like electrolytic nickel, which is used as an undercoat for decorative chrome plating, among others — saw both value and volume rise year-on-year: by 15% to 68,413 dry metric tons (DMT) and by 36% to P14.786 billion.

MGB noted that “mine output was generally sluggish during the period, as most commodities reported production shortfalls.”

Gold saw volume drop three percent to 16,999 kilograms (kg) even as value edged up by one percent to P33.814 billion.

Silver dropped both in volume and value terms: by 11% to 23,951 kg and by eight percent to P659.963 million.

Copper concentrate contracted by 19% to 210,428 DMT even as value rose by five percent to P14.007 billion.

Nickel direct shipping ore saw volume drop 11% to 19.01 million DMT and value of production stayed relatively flat at P18.101 billion.

Finally, chromite saw volume fall by 47% to 13,694 DMT and value drop 41% to P107.369 million.

As of last year, the Philippines was estimated to have reserves consisting of 1.854 billion MT of gold, 1.696 billion MT of silver, 1.761 billion MT of copper, 116.136 million MT of nickel, 116.001 million MT of iron and 47.264 million MT of chromite, MGB said in its statement. — with A. G. A. Mogato

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