Asean nations continue to develop mining industry – by Henry J. Schumacher (Business Mirror – October 9, 2013) [Philippines]

ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-states are mineral rich, and mining is playing an increasingly important role in the region’s economic growth (hopefully also in the Philippines). In Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, mining accounts for 12 percent of gross domestic product.

Even as global demand has eased, Asia’s locomotive economies continue to drive Asean’s fast-developing mining sector, especially China, which consumes more than 40 percent of the world’s output of industrial ores.

The most rapid growth in both Indonesia and other Asean states has been seen in the extraction of industrial minerals—such as copper, nickel, tin and, more recently, gold. The region’s status as an area of world mineral importance, with immense, still to be exploited, deposits of an almost limitless range of ores, is a focus for the world’s biggest developers.

The Philippines is considered to be the fifth most mineralized country in the world, with its gold resources ranking as the third largest. The country also has the fourth-largest copper resources and fifth-largest nickel deposits. However, only a relatively small amount of territory has been mined.

The Tampakan copper-gold mining project on the Philippine island of Mindanao could have involved a capital investment of almost $6 billion, if local politics had not stopped the project. This development and the government’s attempt to increase its share in mining income have—hopefully only temporarily—pushed the Philippines to the sidelines of international interest in mining investments.

Asean countries have an unrivaled global mining potential for a wide variety of minerals, including rare earths. These metals contain special magnetic qualities that are crucial in military, as well as civil-technology applications, for example, in the production of computers and mobile phones, as well as electrical and hybrid-car engines.

Copper, nickel, zinc, iron ore and coking coal are the primary commodities that the rest of the world will mostly require during the next 20 to 40 years. Analysts predict that China and India will need more than double the amount of copper and nickel currently supplied over the next 30 years.

While the region’s mineral resources offer vast long-term potential, Asean’s aim is to develop transparency and accountability and nurture partnership between governments and non-governmental organizations. The aim is to develop a vibrant minerals sector for sustainable development.

Asean member-states are also seeking closer networking and communications on minerals and geosciences, and to develop transfer of technology in the minerals sector. The aim is to share information and technological developments, especially downstream research, to stimulate this vital economic sector.

The effect could be significant, as the region’s mineral resources are applied to develop downstream industries—a good example is the first-published industry sector road map on copper downstream operations in the Philippines—so the region will become a market for specialist machinery and equipment, processing facilities, modern technologies and services.

Foreign investment remains a key component of development in the region’s mining sector, where the exploitation of some of the world’s greatest and most comprehensive mineral resources is still at a relatively early stage.

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