Metal production expands 17.11% – by Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star – August 13, 2014)

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine metallic production rose by 17.11 percent in terms of value in the first quarter of the year on increased revenues from gold production, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said yesterday.

The aggregate value of metal production for the first three months of the year is placed at P21.98 billion, up by P3.21 billion from P18.77 billion recorded in the same period last year.

Gold production accounted for 38.56 percent of the total production value during the period with aggregate earnings of P8.48 billion, up 17 percent from P7.27 billion in the comparative period.

Higher gold production during the first quarter was due to “substantial” increase in production in the following projects: Didipio gold project of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya, Toledo copper project of Carmen Copper Corporation in Cebu, and Padcal copper-gold project of Philex Mining Corporation in Benguet.

Revenues from direct shipping nickel ore and nickel sulfides comprised 34.80 percent of the total metal production value for the period at P7.65 billion.

The growth in revenues from nickel direct shipping ore alone slowed down 14 percent in the first quarter to P3.59 billion from P4.16 billion. The MGB attributed this to lower production caused by unfavorable weather condition that prevailed in Dinagat Islands and Surigao province during the start of the year where 18 out of the 27 actively operating nickel mines in the country are located.

Out of 18 mines operating in Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte, 11 mines reported zero production in the first quarter.

“A nickel mining operation, being surface mining, is always vulnerable to the weather condition,” said MGB director Leo Jasareno.

Revenues from copper production comprised 24.30 percent of the total metal production value during the period at P5.34 billion, up by 33 percent from P4.02 billion during the comparative period.

The remaining 2.34 percent, or P514 million, came from the combined values of silver, zinc, iron ore and chromite. Revenues from Iron ore from small-scale mining operations amounted to about P320 million.

Two producers of copper, gold and silver have also ceased operations in the first quarter of the year. The Rapu-Rapu Poymetallic Project of Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) in Albay concluded its operations last year and has started its final mine rehabilitation activities.

The Canatuan Mining project of TVI Resource Development Philippines Incorporated in Zamboanga del Norte ceased production mid-January after its ore reserves had been exhausted.

Three new mining projects, meanwhile, are expected to start operations this year: the Vitali Iron Ore Mining Project of Atro Mining – Vitali Inc. in Zamboanga City that has a mine life of 10 years; Libjo Nickel Laterite Project of East Coast Mineral Resources Co., Inc. in Dinagat Island that has a mine life of 10 years; and Agata Nickel Laterite Project of Minimax Mineral Exploration Corporation in Agusan del Norte that has a mine life of 11 years.

These projects holding Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) entail total investments of P1.46 billion. Once these projects begin contributing to the production stream, the country would have 46 operating mines all in all.

Metal prices were less favorable for producers during the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year. Gold fell by as much as 20.77 percent to $1,292.93 per troy ounce in the first quarter from $1,631.81 per troy ounce on the comparative period.

The MGB said the average gold price is expected to become steady at $1,300 per troy ounce level for the meantime.

Gold demand during the first quarter came mostly from the jewelry industry, investment and central bank purchases.

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