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Miners fear investment opportunities slipping away

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mining
PHILSTAR

THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) said that the delay in formulating mining policy has caused the Philippines to miss out on potential investment.

CoMP Executive Director Ronald S. Recidoro told reporters on Monday during the launching of Philippine-Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s (PH-EITI) fourth road show in Manila that the delay has been “very disconcerting” with investors already leaving the Philippines.

“If we keep delaying… we will be behind the curve, we will miss opportunities,” he added.

“There’s only a limited pool of quality investment dollars out there. If (investors) decide to sink it elsewhere, goodbye to that. The only ones that will remain for us are fly-by-night, high-risk investors who are willing to take shortcuts. That is not the ideal situation.”

Since the signing of the moratorium on exploration activities almost 10 years ago, the mining industry is already lagging behind in terms of exploration work and investments. Gestation period starting from exploration to actual operations usually takes 15 years.

The Philippines is one of the world’s top nickel ore producers. While an oversupply of steel is dampening demand for nickel, Mr. Recidoro said there may be an opportunity from the emergence of the electric car industry.

Mr. Recidoro added that the Philippines should keep tabs on Indonesia, another top source for nickel ore.

After partially lifting a moratorium on the direct export of ore last year, Indonesia is slowly gaining strength and attracting investors back.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has since lifted two moratoriums on exploration activity and the processing of small-scale mining applications.

“For us to remain competitive, we need to find new sources for these minerals as they get depleted,” Mr. Recidoro said.

“We’re always behind the curve in this instance. We cannot take advantage of the price increases because all our production has already been taken up and their prices are already hedged for sale.”

The DENR has yet to sign an administrative order on limiting the area of land which can be mined at any one time.

Mr. Recidoro added that the industry does not mind delays to the mining audit as long as the process is thorough.

“We’d rather get the audit right than get it sooner. So we are actually thankful to the [Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s] audit teams because they seem to be doing a very thorough job of looking into mining operations,” he added.

“We can wait because how they’re doing it is more professional, more technical.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato