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Marcelle P. Villegas - April 01, 2021

Discovering the World’s Largest Caldera: An Interview with Geophysicist Jenny Anne Barretto - Part 2

“I always say that you don’t have to be a genius or a math wizard to pursue a career in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics]. It may mean working harder, but your love for learning and discovery will sustain you. Never stop being curious and take every opportunity to learn.” (Jenny Anne Barretto) Last year, Philippine Resources Journal interviewed geologist and marine geophysicist Jenny Anne Barretto during an online talk show and forum in New Zealand titled “NetKapihan”. She shared the story on how she and her team discovered the world’s largest caldera located in Benham Rise (also known as Philippine Rise) – the Apolaki Caldera. Ms Barretto is a Filipina scientist who works in GNS Science in New Zealand. She graduated with a degree in MSc Geology from the National Institute of Geological Science in University of the Philippines (UP). She was also an instructor in UP for five years. Since 2007, she has been assisting coastal States like the Philippines and the Sultanate Republic of Oman in delineating their continental shelves as defined in UNCLOS Article 76. Ms Barretto was a key scientist of the technical working group that successfully confirmed the continental shelf of the Philippines in the Benham Rise region. In 2019, Ms Barretto and two colleagues, Ray Wood and John Milsom, published a paper in Marine Geology Journal titled, “Benham Rise unveiled: Morphology and structure of an Eocene large igneous province in the West Philippine Basin”. In this paper, they reported the discovery of what may be the largest caldera in the world. They named this the Apolaki Caldera, a tribute to the "god of sun and war" in Philippine mythology. How big is this caldera? It has a diameter of ~150 km, which is 90 km bigger than the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming, U.S.A. “My co-authors and I were part of the Benham Rise continental shelf technical working group. Back in 2008, we only analysed the bathymetric, geological and geophysical data for the purpose of proving that Benham Rise is part of the Philippine continental shelf. That is by showing that Benham Rise is physically connected to Luzon,” Ms Barretto said. On Part 1 of our interview, she also discussed the possible mineral resources available in the area. “With the presence of the caldera, exploration geologists will say that the possible mineral resources are volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits which are significant sources of metals (largely Cu, Zn, Pb ± Au).”   She also noted, “The available data supports our interpretation of the existence of the caldera. However, it is not impossible that other scientists or even us (me and my co-authors) may find later evidence refuting it. It’s just how science works.” For part 2 of this interview, we shall discuss further the features of the Apolaki Caldera, its origins and possible dangers it might pose future. We also asked Ms Barretto about the difference between working as a scientist here in the Philippines and abroad, plus her message for young people who aspire to pursue a career in science. PRJ: Bathymetric surveys were used to identify the morphology of the caldera. What other data sets (such as seismic or gravimetric surveys) are available to model not only the surface but also the structure of the caldera? Ms Barretto: Yes, multibeam bathymetry data was the primary data used that led to the identification of the caldera. There is only one existing multichannel seismic reflection profile that crossed the caldera from which we identified ~1km of sediment fill, which is unusual for oceanic plateaus because these submarine features are commonly blanketed by thin sediments. Single channel seismic reflection profiles across Benham Rise show less than 500 m sediment blanket which is supported by drill cores from DSDP Site 292. There was also a 2D gravity model which included a thick pocket of sediments in the same location as that depicted on the seismic profile. I went through all the data we have from 2008 and availed of other data in the public domain. Reading John Milsom’s previous interpretations of seismic and gravity data in Benham Rise, I realized that a way to explain the relatively thick pocket of sediments on the summit that he pointed out was the presence of a caldera. So that began our work together to prove or disprove the presence of a giant caldera on Benham Rise. The seismic interpretation and gravity model were made years before we noticed the caldera feature. The presence of the caldera gave sense to the existence of the thick pocket of sediments. Future work should include deep penetrating 2D multichannel seismic reflection survey complemented by gravity and magnetic studies would help verify the existence of the caldera and associated structures and could also provide insight into magma chamber dimension and geometry. And of course, ultimately drilling within the caldera feature to get rock samples. PRJ: Apolaki Caldera would be far the largest caldera in the world with 150 km diameter. Circular morphological structures of that size are known from impacts of meteors. Hence, could this not be a large impact structure? Ms Barretto: Yes, that’s a possibility that’s why in our paper we compared Apolaki’s morphology with both impact craters and known giant calderas. Results of that comparison exercise show that Apolaki exhibit more caldera-like features than impact crater-like features. PRJ: Such a huge caldera requires a similarly large magma-chamber or call it a huge “hot-spot”. Hot spots in the earth mantle are relatively stable but the earth crust is moving over such a hot-spot and creates a chain of volcanoes (see Hawaii island chain). In the case of Apolaki, the crust was not moving over the hot spot and volcanic activities occurred at stable positions. Could that not be an indication that the volcanic activity was much smaller without forming a caldera? Hence, the structure might be caused by an impact?  Ms Barretto: Yes, huge calderas imply an underlying equally sized magma chamber. In our paper, we suggested that the formation of the Apolaki Caldera (the collapse) may not have been simply caused by magma withdrawal from its magma chamber. Pre-existing large scale structures (i.e. faults and rifts) related to seafloor spreading and rifting most likely facilitated the collapse. The lithosphere on which Benham Rise (and of course, Apolaki Caldera) was moving over a hot spot. The mantle plume or hot spot supplying the magma chamber that formed Apolaki Caldera is believed (by scientists who have worked in the region) to coincide with a spreading ridge (the now extinct Central Basin Spreading Center). So as spreading was occurring, the lithospheric plates on either side of the spreading ridge were moving away from the ridge. At the same time, the mantle plume underneath was supplying magma in excess of what the spreading ridge would normally produce and therefore create a chain of oceanic plateaus. Each oceanic plateau is split as the lithospheric plates moved away from the spreading ridge creating paired plateaus on either side, like twins. Urdaneta Plateau is interpreted by many ay Benham Rise’s twin. They are equidistant from the Central Basin Spreading Center and have similar ages. Oki-Daito Rise is an older oceanic plateau on the Urdaneta Plateau’s side. It was hypothesized by Ishizuka et al. (2013) that its twin which is supposed to be on Benham Rise’s side has either subducted or accreted with the Philippines. PRJ: Do you think the presence of the Apolaki Caldera will put the Filipino fishermen in danger in the future? Ms Barretto: No. Available data show that volcanism ended on Benham Rise (including its spurs) about 26 million years ago. Threat of a volcanic eruption in that area is very low. PRJ: What are your future projects or current endeavours with regards to marine geophysics and geology? Ms Barretto: For New Zealand, I’m currently involved in a research programme looking at next generation geothermal resources. I help put together available magnetic data for the Taupo Volcanic Zone which will help find deeper geothermal energy sources. I’m also leading a science education outreach project funded by the NZ government. My team and I will bring an augmented reality sandbox in different remote North Island primary schools teaching students about land and water interaction. For the Philippines, I’m currently doing research with John Milsom and Ronaldo Gatchalian of NAMRIA about the gravity variations over the Zambales Ophiolite. There’s also ongoing work to explain the Luzon syntaxis (the bent shape of Luzon). There’s more work to be done on Benham Rise, but at the moment we are unable to find funds to do them. PRJ: What are some of the challenges or difficulties you have experienced as a geologist/marine geophysicist in the Philippines? How does it compare pursuing this career in New Zealand? Ms Barretto: Funding for research is always a challenge for scientists anywhere in the world, but more so in developing countries like the Philippines. Like anywhere, we scientists in NZ need to write proposals and compete for government funding. However, there is more funding for research available here in NZ than in the Philippines. There is more support for scientists. Working in NZ is also more relaxed with no need to beat the traffic to and from work. Even if government pay in NZ is less compared to industry, it is still enough to have a decent living. Back in PH, I have to do consultancy work in addition to my teaching job at UP to make ends meet.   PRJ: For the young people, what message would you like to impart to them that would encourage them to pursue a career in geology or in any field in science? Ms Barretto: I always say that you don’t have to be a genius or a math wizard to pursue a career in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics]. It may mean working harder, but your love for learning and discovery will sustain you. Never stop being curious and take every opportunity to learn. Acknowledgement: Thank you, Ms Jenny Anne Barretto for sharing your amazing story, and GNS Science for the opportunity to write about this discovery and study. Thank you, Sir Rene Molina and NetKapihan for inviting me as panelist in your radio show in New Zealand. PRJ would also like to thank Dr Friedrich Bandelow for his contribution in the technical discussion in the interview, and science journalist Angelica Yang for guidance and support.

Company

Philippine Resources - April 01, 2021

Hinatuan Mining Corp Gives Additional Support to Talavera United Women's Association

Nickel Asia Corp. - Hinatuan Mining Corp. (NAC-HMC) gives additional support to Talavera United Women's Association (TUWA) by providing delivery service motorcycle and pump boat. TUWA, is one of the People's organizations (POs) supported by the Social Development and Management Program of NAC-HMC. TUWA owns and manages Island’s Pure Water Refilling Station in Barangay Talavera. The vehicles turned-over by NAC-HMC to their organization will be utilized in to transport and distribute their products to customers in Brgy. Talavera and in nearby island communities. “The support provided by NAC-HMC to TUWA is part of the company’s commitment to assist its communities in their aspiration for a sustained growth by providing investments to support livelihood programs”, said NAC-HMC Community Organizer Allan O. Bandoy Jr. He also added that the provision of delivery vehicles is a way of providing assistance to TUWA to help them expand their target market, “With the additions of the delivery service motorcycle, TUWA can deliver their products to customers far from their business location. The pump boat can also be utilized to cater to clients from neighboring island communities.” Grateful for the Support TUWA officers and members are very grateful for the support provided by NAC-HMC to their Water Refilling Business. “The delivery service motorcycle and pump boat are a welcome addition to our business. These delivery vehicles are very helpful not only to us but also to our clients as well”, said TUWA Vice President Wendelina N. Arbis. “With the addition of a delivery service motorcycle, we can supply to more customers here in our island barangay. We can deliver 5 gallons of water to clients far from our water refilling station. We can also serve clients outside of our barangay, specially those in our neighboring islands, with the help of the pump boat,” she further added. TUWA Secretary Gelba C. Escultura is also thankful for the support. “We are very grateful to NAC-HMC for their support. With the aid of the delivery service vehicles, we can accommodate more customers and our delivery boy will have an easier task.” Less Hassle for Customers “Most of our customers are housewives since they are the ones left to tend their homes when their husbands go to work. Before receiving the delivery service motorcycle from NAC-HMC, they would hire someone to get their orders from our water refilling station to their homes. Nowadays, all they need to do is to text, chat or give us a call when they need water. Placing an order and getting water from us is much easier and less hassle for our clients”, said Mrs. Arbis Mrs. Escultura also stated that, “Our customers can get water from our water refilling station without the need to go outside their homes. For those residing in Barangay Talavera, all they need to do is to ready an empty 5-gallon container in their homes and our delivery boy will get it and send it to our water refilling station to be filled, and will be delivered back to them. “For customers in other islands, they need to inform us of the number of 5-gallon containers they need filled. For example, if they need 5 5-gallon containers filled, we will deliver 5 5-gallon containers already filled and we will take 5 5-gallon empty containers,” added Mrs. Arbis. Additional Income “The addition of the delivery service motorcycle and pump boat has enabled us to cater to more customers. It also helped us gain new patrons. It also helped our business gain an additional income since we can charge an additional 5 pesos per delivery”, said Mrs. Arbis. Mrs. Escultura also added that, “some clients who previously get their water from Surigao City have transferred to us. Our prices are cheaper compared to the price of water delivered from Surigao City. With the help of the delivery service motorcycle and pump boat, we are able to accommodate and satisfy the needs of these additional customers.”

Mining

Philippine Resources - March 31, 2021

Atlas Mining Recovers and Earns P118 Million in 2020

Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation (Atlas Mining) recovered and reported a net income of P118 million in 2020, compared to a net loss of P565 million in 2019. According to the firm, this is because of the continued stabilization of Atlas Mining's operation and production, as well as the substantial increase in gold output, the increase in metal prices in the second half, and the reduction in operational costs. Carmen Copper Company, Atlas Mining's wholly-owned subsidiary, announced copper metal output of 107.24 million pounds in 2019 and 107.09 million pounds in 2020 during the time. It increased its gold supply by 27%, from 37,786 ounces to 47,857 ounces. Higher tonnage milled and higher realized gold grades contributed to the rise in gold production. From 17.57 million tonnes to 18.37 million tonnes, milling tonnage rose by 5%. Copper grades, on the other hand, declined by 5% from 0.319 per cent to 0.304 per cent, while gold grades rose by 31% from 6.24 grams/dmt to 8.17 grams/dmt. Because of the higher gold grade, the copper metal content of the concentrate exported declined by 4% to 106.07 million pounds, while the gold content rose by 23% to 43,480 ounces. Copper price rose by 6% to $2.79/lb in the last quarter, compared to the nine-month realized average price of USD2.64/lb, continuing the upward trend that began in June 2020. The price of gold increased by 3% in the last year, to USD1,777/oz, compared to a nine-month average of USD1,730. Year on year, the average realized copper price increased by 2% to USD2.79/lb in 2020, up from USD2.72/lb in 2019. Meanwhile, the average realized gold price increased by 27% to USD1,777/oz in 2020, up from USD1,394 in 2019. Increased productivity, increased by-product credits from gold attributed to higher gold demand and higher gold prices, and reduced operating costs culminated in a 34 per cent reduction in average cost per pound from USD1.38/lb in 2019 to USD0.90/lb in 2020. From P11.09 billion in 2019 to P9.51 billion in 2020, cash expenses decreased by 14%. Large reductions in waste stripping, diesel, electricity, weapons, and repair parts contributed to the drop in cash costs. Core profits for the year increased by 510 per cent, from P422 million in 2019 to P2.576 billion in 2020. As a result, the cash raised from operations increased, allowing Atlas Mining to repay $80 million in loans this year, in addition to $52.7 million in 2019. “We are confident as well that these improvements will serve as an effective hedge against any downturn in the commodities market. We will continue to focus on operational stability and safety, cost efficiencies and sustainability,” Atlas Mining President Adrian Ramos said.

Mining

Philippine Resources - March 29, 2021

MGB-Caraga Approves THPAL's Social Development Plan for 2021

Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation's (THPAL) Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) plan for 2021 has been approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Caraga Region (MGB-13), led by Director Glenn Marcelo Noble. THPAL's annual SDMP programme, according to a statement, includes planned investments "aimed at building self-reliant, self-sustaining, and managing populations." The THPAL SDMP includes funding for childcare, schooling, livelihood, public utilities and infrastructure advancement, and socio-cultural protection, according to the organization. Surigao del Norte's mining town of Claver will earn PHP12.8 million for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine procurement as part of the SDMP allocation, which is meant for the host and surrounding areas where it resides. The corporation said that it would collaborate with the local government unit to obtain vaccinations for 28,000 people, or 70% of the local population. "The company's SDMP aims to help cushion the impact of the pandemic, and we are hoping that vaccination can be done soon so we can all move forward and work on the rebuilding of our economy," said Genevieve Chua, THPAL community relations manager. THPAL is a hydrometallurgical processing plant that converts low-grade nickel laterite ore to nickel and cobalt mixed sulfide using the "high-pressure acid leach" technique. The stock is shipped to Japan, where it is further refined into medical devices, electrical batteries, and other industrial materials.

Mining

Philippine Resources - March 29, 2021

The Municipal Council of Tampakan Wants the Ban on Open-Pit Mining Lifted.

The municipal council of Tampakan in the province of South Cotabato has called for the lifting of an open-pit mining ban that has stymied the development of Southeast Asia's largest copper and gold mine for the past decade. The town council's presiding officer, Vice Mayor John Mark Baldon, said the body passed Resolution No. 589 on March 15 recommending the provincial government to review its 2010 Environment Code, specifically Section 22 which forbids open-pit mining in the province. Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has been exploring the Tampakan project for years, planning to open-pit mine the area's massive deposits, but has been thwarted by the province's open-pit mining ban. The municipal council insisted that the mining company had met all of the necessary conditions to begin operations, including obtaining permission from aboriginal landowners to open their lands to the mine. Only the mining ban stands in the way of the Tampakan initiative, according to the council's resolution.

Construction

Philippine Resources - March 25, 2021

BGC-Ortigas Bridge to Partially Open in May

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) plans to open the Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge, which is a key component of the BGC-Ortigas Road Link Project, to the public in May 2021. The Sta Monica-Lawton Bridge, the superstructure that will link Lawton Avenue in Makati City and Sta. Monica Street in Pasig City across the Pasig River, is already completed, according to DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar. Added Villar, “With a few more needed finishing works, we’re very excited to partially open a new connectivity between Bonifacio Global City and Ortigas business districts to the public by the second quarter.”   Emil K. Sadain, DPWH Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations, said in his report to Secretary Villar that aside from the finishing touches at the Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge, whose centre main span was constructed of segmental box girders using the balanced cantilever building technique, Brixton Street (corner Reliance Street) to Fairlane Street is being rehabilitated and widened by UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 with a total length of 476.577 meters, a 159.629-meter approach road at abutment 1, and a 125 meter up and down the ramp between piers 8 and 13. Undersecretary Sadain, UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 (UPMO-RMC 1) Project Director Virgilio C. Castillo, Project Managers Benjamin A. Bautista and Ricarte S. Maalac, and Engr. Reynaldo S.L. Perez of Persan Construction inspected the four-lane two-way bridge. The building of the Lawton Avenue – Global City Viaduct, which will run from Lawton Avenue to the entrance of BGC, is also part of the project with the ongoing preparation for bored piling at BGC and road widening on 8th Avenue. The Metro Manila Logistics Network's 1.367-kilometre Bonifacio Global City-Ortigas Center Link Road Project will reduce the one-hour driving between the BGC and Ortigas business districts to 12 minutes. The whole project, which will increase accessibility between the cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig, and Makati while also alleviating traffic congestion on EDSA and C-5, is set to be completed by September 2021. 

Construction

Philippine Resources - March 25, 2021

Common Station Almost 50% Complete

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced that the Common Station in Metro Manila is 48.5 per cent complete. The DOTr said in a Facebook post that the Common Station, which is expected to be completed by December this year, will have a 13,700 square meter concourse area that will "seamlessly interconnect" the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2), Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), and the Metro Manila Subway. “This is a long-overdue transport infrastructure project that would have considerably eased mobility of commuters in Metro Manila, particularly along the main transit routes, from Baclaran to Monumento to the entire length of Edsa,” the DOTr said. Area B, or the atrium, of the Common Station, is currently “100 per cent complete,” while the rest of the project is being built at a faster pace and around the clock. The project is nearing completion after nearly a decade of delays caused by "location problems." “DOTr Secretary [Arthur] Tugade deftly navigated through the dispute of various stakeholders of the project, including two conglomerates who were vying for a better vantage point,” the DOTr said. In Quezon City, the Common Station is near the intersection of Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue (Edsa) and North Avenue. The station is expected to service about 478,000 passengers per day once it is completed. PNA (People's National Association).

Construction

Philippine Resources - March 23, 2021

Infrastructure Spending to Boost Economy

Following the introduction of tighter quarantine measures in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four neighbouring provinces from March 22 to April 4, 2021, expanded government infrastructure investment is much more important. The government imposed a tougher general population quarantine (GCQ) for the National Capital Region (NCR), Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, and Bulacan for two weeks on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (AITF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases to help resolve the increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases. Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) chief economist Michael Ricafort said “tighter restrictions could slow down economic recovery.”  “The resulting reduction in the capacity and scale of some affected business and industries, somewhat reverting back to levels a few weeks ago, would slow down the pace of economic recovery,” he said. According to Ricafort, recent increases in Covid-19 infections, which peaked at 8,019 on March 22, set a new high “would also result in fewer people going out as a matter of prudence and would result in reduced consumer spending and slower pick-up in economic/business activities.”  Although the current initiatives are more restrictive than those introduced in recent weeks, he said they are nevertheless "milder" than those implemented last year. This is to “lower new Covid-19 cases and better manage Holy Week, which is a potential superspreader event as people travel, meet, and congregate while keeping the economy as open as possible while observing strict health protocols.” He said, “Thus, government spending, especially on infrastructure, would be needed more to pump-prime the economy, as a result, also in preparation for the 2022 presidential elections a little over a year from now. Reduction in new Covid-19 cases and further arrival and rollout of Covid-19 vaccines would be key to further justify reopening of the economy to support economic recovery prospects.” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, meanwhile, confirmed that his department “has always advocated a policy of conserving all our resources in anticipation of a recurrence of the contagion, in order for the country to be able to make the appropriate response at any given time.”  “We will examine all available facts and weigh the knowledgeable opinions from domestic and international sources to arrive at a recommendation for action,” he added.

Construction

Philippine Resources - March 23, 2021

PCC Approves Reclamation Joint Venture 'Manila Horizon'

The Philippine Competition Commission announced that it had approved a new joint venture for a reclamation project in Manila Bay between the city government of Manila and another private partner. The PCC Mergers and Acquisitions Office found no significant lessening of competition from the formation of a joint venture between JBros Construction Corp. and the city government of Manila for the “Manila Horizon” Reclamation Project, similar to the recent approval of Manila Waterfront City. “The transaction is a new area of investment formed for the creation of a residential and commercial real estate development project. This will expand the existing market and likely create an opportunity for the emergence of new markets for commercial and residential real estate within the City of Manila,” the anti-trust body said. There were no impacted consumers or business operation in the relevant regional market, according to the commission. Horizon Manila is a 419-hectare raw-land reclamation and construction project situated south of the Manila-Pasay boundary and east of Roxas Boulevard on the foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay. The aim of the project is to create jobs and business opportunities in Manila. JBros Construction is a general and large-scale construction company that has worked on notable projects such as the GSIS building and the National Museum of History. JBros Construction will add money and experience as part of the proposal. Manila, a densely populated metropolis, will contribute access to local waters on which the plant will be built. To build the proposal, the parties formed a contractual joint venture with the purpose of sharing gains, costs, and losses. The resulting unincorporated joint venture would be ruled by a 50/50 split, with Manila getting 51 per cent and JBros Construction getting 49 per cent. Only companies and businesses whose acquisition value meets the thresholds set out in the Philippine Competition Act, such as the Manila Horizon, are subject to PCC merger approval clearance. The PCC's approval is limited to the effects on competition in the affected areas' industrial and residential real estate construction sectors. The said joint venture is the PCC's 212th deal, and the third for reclamation projects, following the approval of joint ventures between Manila Waterfront City and City of Manila and Pasay Harbor City and Pasay City. The PCA requires the PCC, as the country's antitrust regulator, to investigate mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures of companies in all industries.

Mining

Philippine Resources - March 23, 2021

Nickel Asia is the First Filipino Mining Company Welcomed into UNGC

Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) is pleased to announce that it is the first mining firm in the Philippines to be recognized as one of the United Nations Global Compact's newest members (UNGC). UNGC, the world's largest sustainability initiative, "supports worldwide businesses committed to responsible business practices in the fields of human rights, labour, the environment, and corruption," according to its website. UNGC was officially opened in New York in 2000 and is based on a set of principles that the UN believes must be pursued in order for a business to fulfil its environmental and social obligations. NAC has promised to follow these principles since signing the compact willingly. “This is a huge deal for all of us at NAC because it effectively binds us to the proverbial umbilical cord of what UNGC represents to the world,” said Dennis Zamora, President and CEO of NAC. Zamora, the mining industry's youngest President and CEO, and the son of mining legend Manny G. Zamora, the company's founder, recently took over from Gerry H. Brimo, the current Chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP). NAC had to disclose its value system and approach to doing business in the communities to UNGC in order to be deemed a member. NAC also had to explain how its relationships with all of its stakeholders are the true stories behind its best mining practices. UNGC highlights that “member companies of the UN Global Compact are expected to act in environmentally responsible ways with regard to climate change, water and sanitation, energy, biodiversity, and food and agriculture. They are also expected to recognize the link between environmental issues, and social and development priorities”.  The standard operating processes of all of the mining firms under the NAC umbrella have long been setting the stage for UNGC membership, according to JB Baylon, NAC VP for Corporate Communications. “The UNGC principles have been integrated into our corporate strategies and day-to-day operations and our membership to this global pact expose the NAC companies to a more intense peer review which in effect will be beneficial to the industry as a whole because, as you see, mining continues to fight in the reputation category and UNGC will help demonstrate our track record as we publicly report on how effectively we manage the environment, social and governance issues,” Baylon elaborated.  Responsible mining firms, such as NAC, have taken it upon themselves to commit to sustainable business strategies in all areas of activities by promoting inclusive, fair, and impactful initiatives that foster lifelong opportunities in mining communities.

Industry

Philippine Resources - March 22, 2021

First Gen Starts LNG Terminal Construction In April

First Gen Corp, a Philippine power company, announced that construction on its LNG terminal, which is expected to cost $274 million, will begin next month. First Gen's LNG import terminal, which will be built near its gas-fired power plants in Batangas province, is one of five such projects approved by the Department of Energy. "Commencing the construction of the country's first LNG terminal next month...puts the company in a good position for expanding its gas portfolio especially after the recent DOE coal moratorium," First Gen President Francis Giles Puno said in a statement. By the third quarter of 2022, the terminal will enable First Gen to ship LNG to the Philippines. Since the government's latest projections show that the Malampaya gas field in western Philippine waters will run dry by 2027, the Southeast Asian country will need to import LNG to fuel existing power plants with a combined capacity of about 3,200 megawatts. Tokyo Gas Co Ltd, a 20 per cent participating stake in the development and service of the terminal, will be First Gen's partner for the project, which includes the use of a Floating Storage Regasification Unit.

Construction

Philippine Resources - March 22, 2021

Construction Activities Remain Poor due to Low Demand

Building and construction activity remains poor due to low demand, as shown by a nearly 50% decrease in the value of building works in the fourth quarter of 2020. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority's Construction Statistics from Approved Building Permits, the total value of constructions fell nearly 47% to P63 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, down from P118 billion in 2019. In addition, the figure was lower than the P67.7 billion recorded in the third quarter of 2020. This is despite the fact that the number of building projects fell to 31,026 in the fourth quarter of 2020, down from 39,242 in the same quarter of 2019. Despite the economy's gradual reopening since last year, demand for construction has yet to resume because workers' capacity remains restricted. Residential construction projects accounted for 71 per cent of all constructions during the time, with 21,892 overall. This form of building, the majority of which were single-family homes, shrank by 20% each year. In addition, the value of residential construction fell by 41% to P32.6 billion. Non-residential projects, mostly commercial structures, have decreased by 29%. At that time, it accounted for 15% of all constructions. During that time, the value of non-residential constructions fell by 53.3 per cent to P26 billion. The rest were changes to existing buildings, such as extensions, alterations, and repairs. Calabarzon continued to have the most construction activity, with 6,368 constructions accounting for 21% of the total. Ilocos and Central Luzon came in second and last, respectively. However, the National Capital Region, with P13.6 billion in revenue, accounted for 22% of the total.

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Construction

Philippine Resources - March 22, 2021

DMCI Begins Construction of P10.5-b Water Reclamation Facility

D.M. CONSUNJI, Inc. (DMCI) has begun construction on the P10.5 billion Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas water reclamation facility project. The construction company said in a statement that the plant would be able to handle 205 million litres of wastewater every day and will be operational by the third quarter of 2024. The multi-billion-peso water reclamation plant, according to DMCI, will be the country's largest, with 1.2 million households in south Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas projected to benefit from it. “This is an enormous undertaking because it involves expanding the capacity of a 40-year old facility by over 600%,” DMCI President and Chief Executive Officer Jorge A. Consunji said.  The water reclamation facility is one of Maynilad's large-scale, multi-year capital investment programs, according to DMCI. The Dagat-Dagatan sewage treatment plant in Caloocan City will be rehabilitated and expanded as part of the initiative. The plant was built in the 1980s and has a daily wastewater capacity of 26 million litres. When the project reaches its peak in the first quarter of 2023, DMCI plans to employ about 1,000 direct and indirect employees. “This facility also represents two milestones for DMCI. Aside from being our largest wastewater project, to date, it is our first partnership with JFE Engineering Corp. of Japan,” Consunji said. JFE Holdings' engineering division, JFE Engineering, was ranked in the Fortune Global 500 list in 2020. Caloocan, Pasay, Paraaque, Las Pias, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Navotas, Malabon, Manila, Makati, and Quezon City, as well as parts of Cavite province such as Bacoor, Imus, Kawit, Noveleta, and Rosario, receive water from Maynilad. Maynilad is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which owns a majority stake in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc.

Mining

Philippine Resources - March 19, 2021

Nickel Prices are Forecast to Fall in 2021, According to Fitch Solutions

The costs of nickel is expected to fall in 2021 as more supply enters the market but will be supported by recovering economies, according to Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research. Fitch Solutions raised its average nickel ore price estimate for 2021 from $15,250 to $15,750 per ton in a survey. “Prices over the past few months have progressed to multi-year highs on the back of increased optimism in the market, a weakening dollar and bullish expectations about nickel supply,” Fitch Solutions said. The current nickel price is about $18,180 per ton, according to Fitch Solutions, but it will fall as supply in key markets increases. “The end of the rainy season in the Philippines will allow the resumption of nickel mining activity to feed nickel pig iron (NPI) facilities in China, its dominant nickel ore trading partner,” Fitch Solutions said. “We are maintaining our bearish outlook on prices in 2021 compared with the year-to-date average of $18,140 per ton as increasing supply over the year reduces the market deficit, maintaining lower prices.” Nickel prices are expected to rise gradually in the long run, according to Fitch Solutions, as the global market remains undersupplied. Demand is expected to remain stable due to continued growth in China's domestic construction and auto manufacturing industries, according to the study. “We forecast China’s construction sector to grow by an average of 3.8% year on year over 2021-2029 while vehicle production grows by an average of 1.2% over the same period. The rise in demand will exceed production growth in the short term, underpinning a prolonged deficit in the market and push prices higher,” Fitch Solutions said. According to Fitch Solutions, the electric vehicle (EV) market would raise nickel demand due to the need for longer-range batteries. “We expect this trend to begin taking hold over the coming years as consumers favour EVs with longer driving distance capabilities before recharging, making nickel-based battery compositions the optimal choice for vehicle producers,” Fitch Solutions said. Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Chairman Gerard H. Brimo said that policy changes that allow the Philippines to service demand from electric vehicle battery makers could help the industry. “While the Philippines is a top nickel ore producer, we only have two processing plants that produce nickel and cobalt sulfide concentrates — intermediate products that are further processed in Japan to make electric vehicle (EV) batteries,” he said. According to him, the two plants are run by Coral Bay Nickel Corp. in Palawan and Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. in Surigao del Sur. “To enable our country to become a fully integrated EV battery supplier, certain policy changes have to be made, among them the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects that has been in place for nearly a decade,” he said. “The industry needs full government support in terms of stable mining and investment policies that do not change mid-stream,” he added. According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the volume of the metallic mining industry's production in 2020 increased 1.13 per cent year on year to P132.21 billion (MGB). Nickel ore and by-products accounted for 51.8 per cent of the total, or P68.48 billion, according to the MGB. The amount of direct-shipping nickel ore — the type in which the metal is shipped for processing overseas — increased by 3.3 per cent to 333,962 metric tons year on year (MT). Meanwhile, mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide production dropped 2.9 per cent to 49,647 MT year over year.

Company

Philippine Resources - March 17, 2021

International SOS Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Indicator for Business

  Philippines, 3 February 2021. With the increasing demand for reliable information on COVID-19 vaccines, International SOS has created a ‘traffic light’ indicator to help businesses track when, where and how they can roll-out corporate COVID-19 vaccination programmes for their employees. As global organisations seek advice on corporate COVID-19 vaccine policies, the indicator brings together International SOS’ COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker containing detailed vaccine information for all countries, with regularly updated country-level distribution and programme monitoring. This is complemented with bespoke strategic and industry relevant advice from International SOS’ consulting practices. Dr Mark Parrish, Regional Medical Director at International SOS comments, “COVID-19 vaccination programmes are a complex issue, particularly for global organisations. Faced with differing regulations, vaccines and roll-out plans dependent on location, it is vital to have a strategic and agile plan in place. This should be underpinned by up-to- date information, analysed and implemented in accordance with the needs of the workforce. We want to make it as easy as possible for organisations to be able to protect their people at the earliest and in the most efficient way.”  In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) recently issued the National Policy Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment and Immunisation, setting in motion the country’s vaccination programme. Dr Carrianne Ewe, Medical Director at International SOS Philippines shares, “As we continue to monitor the development of the pandemic and the local authority’s approach on the country vaccination, we are able to assist clients in planning their vaccination strategies and protocols for their employees prior to the availability of the vaccine in the country. Educating your workforce with reliable information on the COVID-19 vaccines, communicating its variants, benefits and establishing facts from myths, is critical when implementing a corporate vaccination programme. This provides a level of assurance to the employee that there is an end in sight. This support to our clients prepares their organisation once the relevant COVID-19 vaccines become available in the Philippines, ensuring a healthy and productive workforce and a safe return to office.” International SOS is already supporting many of its Fortune Global 500 clients with strategic health advice from its global consulting practice, including its worldwide COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker. The internationally recognised red, amber, green traffic light system, enables clients to quickly recognise where a site or office has the potential to roll out a vaccine programme. The information is updated daily. Dr Parrish continues “Obviously organisations are keen to ensure that employees are protected from COVID-19 and to uphold their Duty of Care. Our clients want to know where and what vaccines are available to them for their employees, as well as where they may be asked to actively participate in vaccination programmes and their responsibility to do this. They are considering overall how it affects operations and what a corporate COVID-19 vaccine policy should contain. Many also want guidance on what they can be doing within the wider society to enhance vaccine update in communities.” For information on International SOS’ consulting services & corporate vaccine programmes, please click here.

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