Mining industry to gain $6.5B from 24 projects

Mining industry to gain $6.5B from 24 projects

THE Philippine mining industry is poised to get at least $6.5 billion in investments if 24 priority projects finally push through, the head of the industry association said Tuesday.

This amount could go to as high as $10 billion if other projects in the pipeline get done despite recent criticism of the mining industry by activist groups, said Benjamin Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
Government figures presented by the chamber showed the value of Philippine minerals production in the first half of 2006 had risen 48 percent to P24.86 billion ($502 million) compared to the same period last year.

Romualdez told a forum of foreign correspondents that the industry was recovering after coming under fire earlier this year following a spill in a tailings pond at a mine operated by Lafayette Mining.

As a result, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had called for a ban on mining, with many environmental groups joining the outcry.

This was an embarrassment to the government, which had opened the mining industry to foreign investors only in 2005 and raised fears that Manila might reverse its new open-door policy.

Despite the controversy, “all major mining companies in the world have re-established themselves in the Philippines,” said Romualdez, adding that there was also “a flurry of investment houses and banking institutions making constant rounds of presentations to mining companies.”

He said the industry had identified 24 “priority projects” that could bring in an estimated $6.5 billion in new investments. Five of these projects have begun initial operations, including the Lafayette Mining project in Rapu-Rapu island south of Manila.

The Rapu-Rapu mine, which is expected to produce copper, gold, silver and zinc, was suspended from operation by the government after the tailing spill but has since been allowed to conduct test runs to see if it is ready to resume operations.

Romuldez said two of the priority projects were already in the construction stage while eight others were conducting final feasibility studies and sealing accords for financing. The other projects are all in the pipeline, awaiting approval.

Romualdez said the 24 projects, covering gold, copper, nickel and other metallic minerals, located across the Philippines, could easily earn the Philippines $11 billion a year in export revenues if they were all put into full operation.

Copyright 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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