Phl one of world's richest in mineral resources
- Felipe Suzara () - June 13, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A few years ago, Jon Petersen, chief executive officer (CEO) of Intex Resources, made a pronouncement to a national newspaper that ‘’nickel could be to the Philippines what oil is to Norway and Saudi Arabia.’’

So strong was the said statement that it even found its way to that year’s state of the nation address of then President Gloria Arroyo, fueling hope for the national economy in general, and the local mining industry in particular.

True enough, Fraser Institute, an independent non-partisan research and educational organization based in Canada, cited the Philippines as one of the biggest in the mining world, with an estimated $1 trillion in mineral wealth.

But as profitable as it is perpetually promising, the mining industry is also perennially marred with issues and controversies, particularly those concerning the environment.

Intex Resources ASA, a diversified mineral exploration company with headquarters in Oslo, Norway, is not fazed, as it stands tall on its environmentally sound global operations that include Mindoro Nickel, projected to become one of the four largest nickel laterite projects in the world. Intex current projects also include Europe’s largest molybdenum deposit, in Hurdal, Norway, and a promising diamond-rich kimberlite project in Western Greenland.

‘’Mining in the past had a different approach, both in this country as in other countries. People then did not realize that nature had to be taken care of, when many mining operations were established in the ‘50s and ‘60s and left spoiled nature behind them. But that does not mean that mining cannot be conducted properly today. Regulations require it, but the question then of course is whether the companies are seriously and enough prepared to implement the regulations,’’ Petersen said. ‘’We as an international company do not have a choice but to implement properly. We cannot engage in anything if not done properly. It is truly possible that projects can be done properly -- and properly means following regulations to the letter and intension and without corruption, which is not acceptable by any measure.’’

Mine plan

Petersen underscored Intex’s approach, which has been to design and implement a project and a mine plan that would create both maximum benefit to the local communities and minimal environmental footprints.

For the local barangays and Mangyan communities, for instance, Intex has established spring-fed water supply systems that today provide at least 10,000 people with fresh water. This augurs well for women and children, who no longer have to spend half a day walking to fetch water. Intex also supports Mangyan schools with grants, books and reading programs.

‘’We also employ the Mangyans and the lowlanders on equal pay, and engage them on a rotary basis, so all will have a chance to work with us and earn money. Our teams are also setting up various capacity building and skills training programs for men, women and children. It is fundamentally important to us that our CSR is highly visible and will have a material impact.

Mining today is not only a physical operation, it is as much a social responsibility and engagement. Mining today is about engaging people and making a community work together with a given opportunity for work and a better life, ’’Petersen added.

Intex is also looking at teaching the locals to form and operate cooperatives. ‘’Our dream is for the two Mindoros (Oriental and Occidental) to prepare for more trade, and get value for their products,’’ Petersen said.

Intex’s two-pronged mine plan underscores their desire to create the smallest environmental impact, while utilizing the available values to the benefit of people.

‘’We need to use nature — we must accept that, — like if we need to build a road, we have to convert some of the farmland. It is a necessary consequence of societies that we utilize parts of our nature but that does not mean we should spoil it or use it senseless. If in the future, we need to use this land for other than mining, then it must be available for that. This is how we are thinking today. This unfortunately, was not always part of the thinking in the past,’’ Petersen stated.

All for Mindoro

Furthermore, Petersen explained that unlike other companies who perhaps only extract high grade ore and ship it abroad for smelting, Intex will mine both the low-grade limonite ore and saprolite and process them right in Mindoro to provide the added-value final products here.

‘’Some companies may select only the high grade ore, put it on a ship for low payment, and send it off to Japan or China where it is smelted and the added value is created. In this way we only get pennies for our high-grade ore, and those who import it get all benefits. It is close to stealing a nation’s resources, because what is left is low grade ore which may not justify the capital investment in future for exploitation, as all high grade materials have been removed and sold.,’’ he explained.

Fortunately, Petersen said the country is so blessed with nickel laterite deposits that it could be a source of income for many years. However, many low-grade deposits may be worth nothing unless the ore is processed in the country, as low-grade ore cannot be exported with a profit.

 ‘We are the only project today that is planning to produce the final metal product in the country and selling the final metal product to the world metal trading exchanges, and get the payment back here into this country. The final metal is put on the ship in the RP, sold via the London Metal Exchange, and the full value money pay will be plowed back,’’ he said

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