Philippines losing P303 billion in potential revenues from open pit mining

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is missing the opportunity to earn more than P300 billion in revenues from three potential large-scale projects as the government is taking too long to decide whether or not to lift the ban on open-pit mining.

In a roundtable discussion with The STAR, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said the three pending open pit mining projects in the country could potentially give P303 billion in national revenue and an additional P40.4 billion in local government revenue.

The three gold and copper projects are the Tampakan mine in South Cotabato, King-King in Compostela Valley and the Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte.

COMP chairman Gerard Brimo reiterated that  open-pit mining, the  method of extracting rock or  minerals by their removal from an open pit or borrow,  is an accepted practice worldwide. 

It is done and practiced in many countries including developed ones like, Australia, Germany, Sweden Canada and the US.

“The US has nearly 2,000 open pit mines, are we gonna say no to three even if we will get these revenues?” he said.

COMP vice chairman and OceanaGold Philippines chairman Joey Leviste said allowing the three projects to move forward would allow the country to become a major copper producer.

“If we get the three going we can have the equivalent of Build Build Build in the mining industry,” he said.

“These companies are not asking for subsidies, they are not asking for government investments. They are just asking to lift the open pit ban and that’s it,” said Joaquin Lagonera, president of Sagittarius Mines Inc-Tampakan Copper Gold project.

“We are not rushing this project, but Tampakan has been trying to do this for the past 23 years. It is not as if we got the permit last week and we want government to push for it immediately,” he added.

Among the three projects, Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp. is considering going into underground mining for its $2 billion Silangan copper and gold project in Surigao del Norte pending the government’s decision on the industry’s plea to lift the ban on open pit mining.

The $2.5 billion Tampakan project is expected to yield P142 billion in combined national and local government revenues.

On the other hand, the Silangan mine will give government P140.4 billion in revenues.

KingKing, meanwhile,  is expected to turn in P61 billion in revenues with a capital investment of over $2 billion.

The Lower House is backing President Duterte’s call to ban open pit mining operations in the country.

COMP, however, hasn’t given up  and is still hopeful the government would have a change of mind on open pit mining.

 It continues to conduct consultations with the government on all proposed legislations pertaining to large-scale mining.

The ban  on open pit mining was ordered by former Environment chief Gina Lopez in April 2017, shortly before she got removed from her post.

In October 2017, the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) recommended the lifting of the open pit ban saying the local sector is now poised for a more sound investment climate.

A month later, however, Duterte rejected the Council’s recommendation and ordered mining companies to shape up.

The Constitution gives the state the duty to explore, develop, and utilize the country’s mineral resources.

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