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Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 World

by Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

Dr. Jun Abrajano (Photo credit: GSP and KAUST - Office of Sponsored Research)

By Marcelle P. Villegas

Last 26 May 2020, the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) conducted a webinar with guest speaker Dr. Jun Abrajano on "Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 World: A Perspective". Dr Abrajano is the Director of the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia.

These are the highlights of the webinar:

“Geoscience in a Post-COVID-19 world: A Perspective.” [1]

(1) The concept of foresight and active resiliency was presented as important in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. This concept looks into understanding the drivers of risk from which strategies and outcomes may be formulated to benefit the communities and from which challenges and opportunities may also be identified.

(2) Potential features of a post-COVID-19 world include statistical results showing the negative impacts of the pandemic and COVID-19 global outlook that features the presence of risks arising from prolonged recession, geopolitics, and accelerated technology adoption among others. In a post-COVID-19 world, every business is a health business. More so, it necessitates reinvention of authority among others.

(3) The pre-COVID-19 situation of the geosciences plays around the following major considerations: (a) understanding the complex Earth systems; (b) reducing vulnerability and sustaining life; (c) sustainable resource utilization and; (d) growing the geoscience workforce. With the pandemic, granular trends in addressing issues that impact the human life (e.g. geohazards, health-related) can either be accelerated or decelerated.

(4) With the pandemic, emerging trends in the activities and opportunities for the geosciences arise. These include (a) identifying the “geo-impact” to human health; (b) having an interface between geology and biology/microbiology and (c) dwelling on real-time observations and big data analytics among others. The resource sector has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, both positively and negatively. The precious metals and base metals have so far performed well, in contrast to the crude and natural gas sectors which have suffered a downward market trend during this time of pandemic.

(5) With the pandemic, foresight would be a prolonged recession or another pandemic occurring. This, however, should be taken also as an opportunity for geosciences, bearing in mind the considerations during the pre-COVID-19 situation as outlined above.

GSP provided certificates of attendance to webinar participants.

The video recording of the webinar may be viewed at the Facebook page of GSP -


About the guest speaker: Dr. Teofilo A. Abrajano, Jr. is a Balik Scientist of Dept. of Science and Technology. His expertise include Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geoscience and Geology, Geochemistry, Isotope Geochemistry, Biogeochemistry. Some of his research works are about ophiolites, petroleum biomarkers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), isotope fractionation, paleoceanography, isotope analysis, molecular and isotope characterization, molecular tracers, and sediments. [2]

Dr. Abrajano's other affiliations include:

● Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Professor, Isotope Geochemistry, 1998

● Argonne National Laboratory, South Cass Ave., Argonne, Illinois, Scientist, Environmental Research Division, 1997 - 1998

● Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Director, Environmental Science Program, 2001

● Division of Earth Sciences (GEO), US National Science Foundation Arlington, VA, Head, Surface Earth Processes Section, 2006 - 2009

● Memorial University of Newfoundland, Prince Philipps Drive, St. John's, NL, Canada, Associate to Full Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, 1991 - 1998

Since 2015, he has worked as Director at the Office of Sponsored Research, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

In 1977, he graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City with a degree in B.S. Geology. Then he had his Master's degree in Earth Science in 1981 at the University of Akron in Ohio, U.S.A. In 1984, Dr. Abrajano studied in Washington University, U.S.A. and graduated with a degree as Doctor of Philosophy in Earth and Planetary Sciences.

In 2010, he received the Balik Scientist Award from the Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines.


One of the attendees of the webinar was Dr. Graciano Yumul, Jr., Executive Vice President for Geology, Exploration and Operations at Apex Mining Co. Inc. After the event, he commented, "The GSP-sponsored webinar yesterday, May 26, 2020, was educational with a lot of practical messages. I learned a lot and I am sure the other participants did too. The webinar meeting went for almost two hours with interesting questions and comments coming from the participants.”

“Foresighting, the corresponding drivers, passive vis-à-vis active resiliency, globalization/ internationalization, the World Economic Forum global risk outlook, and the Accenture post-COVID-19 'Human Truths' were some of the takeaways during the meeting. The importance of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and related big data science management were highlighted. Indeed, the FIRe (Fourth Industrial Revolution) is here. But the aspect that I enjoyed most during the talk is the bridging of all these sciences, specifically in the context of the geosciences, with the present realities of the world we live in and the possibilities out there, especially in the context of social and cultural backgrounds."

He added, "It was a well-spent two-hour presentation and Q&A session. Dr. Jun Abrajano, as anticipated, has given an excellent presentation. Congratulations to the GSP for this initiative (the second in the series), a welcome respite from the lockdowns and you name what that we are all experiencing now." [1]

Dr. Yumul is a former Undersecretary for R&D at the Department of Science and Technology.



[1] Retrieved from -

[2] Retrieved from SPHERES - Specialized Philippine Enterprise Reference of Experts and Scientists

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Philippine Resources - June 08, 2020

German Geologist Conducts Lecture About Taal Volcano

Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow received a Plaque of Appreciation from Divine World College of Calapan -- (Left to right) Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA (Vice President for Academic Affairs), Ms Diana Kyth Conti (Teacher at Divine Word College of Calapan), and Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, LPT, Ph.D. (Dean, School of Education) (Photo credit: Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow)By Marcelle P. VillegasThe start of 2020 felt like doomsday when Taal Volcano suddenly erupted. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. When it erupted in January, it frightened many people when the sunny afternoon suddenly turned dark and terrifying with volcanic lightning visible through the dark volcanic ash. This resulted in the immediate mass evacuation of almost 1 million people. When it comes to natural calamities, it is often unpredictable, but nature has a way of giving us clues of future disasters. From the point of view of geologists, volcanic eruptions are just part of the natural movements of the Earth’s crust. Looking back on that day, it was Sunday afternoon on the 12th of January when Dr Friedrich-Karl Bandelow, a retired geologist, noticed from his window that the Taal Volcano looks unusual. Although the sky was blue and the weather was sunny, there was something strange about a giant cloud that formed a ring above the volcano.[12 January 2020] “Taal Volcano woke me up. This is a view from my window in Calapan City.” (Photo by Dr Friedrich-Karl Bandelow)In the late afternoon, the skies turned dark and Taal Volcano spewed ashes across Calabarzon, Metro Manila and some parts of Central Luzon and Ilocos Region. [1]. It was a phreato-magmatic eruption, an eruption resulting from the interaction between magma and water."The upper ring [of clouds] appears to be caused by a phreatic eruption that developed into a phreato-magmatic eruption.”Although volcanic eruptions are disastrous and dangerous, it is no doubt that the volcanic lighting that evening was both frightening and fascinating as it gave a rare and beautiful light show in the night skies. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) issued Alert Level 4 which implies that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days. By 26 January 2020, PHIVOLCS observed an inconsistent but decreasing volcanic activity in Taal, thus they downgraded their warning to Alert Level 3. On 14 February 2020, Alert Level was finally on Level 2 due to consistent decreased volcanic activity. [1]Educational Event in Calapan Divine Word College of Calapan (DWCC) in Oriental Mindoro requested Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow to give a lecture about Taal Volcano. He received this invitation from Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, LPT, Ph.D. (Dean, School of Education), Fr. Crispin A. Cordero, SVD (President, Divine Word College of Calapan), and Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA (Vice President for Academic Affairs). On 11 March 2020, he then gave a presentation at DWCC with the title "Volcanoes in General and Taal Volcano in Particular". It was a 90-minute lecture with a 30-minute Question and Answer portion. Dr. Bandelow said, “About 80 students from various courses attended the lecture. From each interested course, about 8 to 10 students were assigned and they later disseminated the information to their classmates.” “It was enjoyable to teach and interact with young students. I also felt that I am part of my community in Calapan City,” Dr. Bandelow stated. The purpose of the lecture was to give information about the recent Taal eruption and the history of that volcano. He covered the following topics: Basics About Volcanoes, Volcanoes in the Philippines, Are there Volcanoes in Mindoro?, Taal Volcano: Physiographic Elements, Which is bigger: Taal or Mayon?, Taal Volcano Eruption History, The January 2020 Eruption, Effects of Eruption, and Monitoring and Prediction. “The question if there are volcanoes in Mindoro was of big interest. Some students were living near volcanoes in Naujan and Pola without knowing it. Of course, the question on Taal eruption’s impact on Calapan was also interesting,” he said.Getting To Know The VolcanoHere are some key points from his lecture about Taal Volcano:● Taal is 311 m high. It had a total of 42 eruptions since 1572● Taal Volcano Island lies within the Taal Lake. Taal Lake lies within a 25-30 km Taal Caldera formed by explosive eruptions between 140,000 and 5,380 BP (Before Present). Each of these eruptions created extensive ash and ignimbrite deposits, reaching as far away as where Manila stands today.● Since the formation of the caldera, subsequent eruptions have created a volcanic island within the caldera, known as Volcano Island. ● The center of the island, occupied by the 2-kilometers Main Crater with a single crater lake, was formed from the 1911 eruption. The island consists of different overlapping cones and craters which 47 have been identified. [2]Dr. Bandelow also discussed the importance of the 1911 Taal Volcano eruption. In 1911, the volcano had violent eruptions. The crater floor was completely changed and the interior was created. There was complete destruction of Taal Island with a death toll of 1100 lives and hundreds of animals died as well. Ash was falling within a radius of about 300 km, 70 to 80 million m3 of ash. [2]About the January 2020 eruption, he mentioned that the event started with a phreatic eruption. Phreatic eruptions are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits. The intense heat of such materials (as high as 1,170° C for basaltic lava) may cause water to boil and flash to steam, thereby generating an explosion of steam, water, ash, blocks and bombs. [2]Effects of the January 2020 eruption:● More than 1 million people were evacuated.● The volcano island is off-limits. About 8000 people lost their homes and cannot return. ● The area around Agoncillo and San Nicolas is badly damaged by fractures.● Fish raising facilities in the Taal Lake were damaged.● Water level of Taal Lake went down. Pansipit River dried up. ● Crater lake was falling dry and is recovering.How does PHIVOLCS monitor the Taal Volcano? Here are some important eruption precursors:● Increase in frequency of volcanic quakes and rumbling sounds● Changes in the water temperature, level and bubbling or boiling activity on the lake● Development of new or reactivation of old thermal areas like fumaroles, geysers or mud pots● Ground inflation or ground fissuring - Often surveyed by means of satellite images (interferometry)● Increase in temperature of ground probe holes on monitoring stations● Strong sulfuric odor or irritating fumes similar to rotten eggs● Fish killed and drying up of vegetationCan PHIVOLCS predict the next eruption? PHIVOLCS will determine the alert level (0 to 5) based on the permanent survey of data. [2] Here is a guide:● Level 3 indicates that an eruption could occur within the next days or weeks (or not!).● Level 4 indicates that an eruption is an imminent risk and could occur now.● Level 5 is on during a volcanic eruption with ash falls, lava flows, pyroclastic flows.Conclusion: Volcanologists are in the position to describe the actual situation and the possible risks but they cannot schedule the events.At the end of the lecture, Dr. Bandelow received a Plaque of Appreciation by the Divine Word College of Calapan.About the LecturerDr. Friedrich-Karl Bandelow is a retired geologist living in Calapan City. He studied geology at Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz/Germany and graduated as Master of Science in 1980. In 1981, he joined Montan Consulting GmbH, an international mining consulting company. He was assigned to exploration projects in Germany and Botswana. He arrived in the Philippines in 1983. From 1983 to 1987, he was seconded to a technical aide project as a consultant to the BED, now the Philippine Department of Energy. He later returned to Germany where he focused on his doctorate thesis while working on international projects.In 1997, Dr. Bandelow received his Ph.D. in Natural Science (Dr. rer. nat.) from Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz. From 2011 to 2013, he settled in Jakarta, Indonesia after being assigned as President Director of PT DMT Indonesia. After a year, he returned to the Philippines and based at his home office in Calapan City. He retired from permanent employment in 2016 and is still occasionally working as an independent consultant in the region.Dr. Bandelow is a member of the United Nations - Task Force for Resource and Reserve Classification. He is a registered European Geologist with the European Federation of Geologists. Dr. Bandelow has written 23 publications in international journals with focus on resource classification and coal geology.-----Acknowledgement: Thank you, Dr. Friedrich-Karl Bandlow, Engr. Rosvelinda Luzon Dequiros, Fr. Crispin A. Cordero and Dr. Aleli C. Dugan, CPA of Divine Word College of Calapan..-----References:[1] Retrieved from[2] Bandelow, Friedrich-Karl (11 March 2020). "Volcanoes in General and Taal Volcano in Particular". Lecture at Divine Word College of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.


Philippine Resources - September 24, 2020

New World Economy - Tech Giants Go Into Mining

BY: Fernando “Ronnie” S. PenarroyoLate last year, the International Rights Advocates filed a lawsuit in a Washington DC court on behalf of fourteen (14) Congolese families against several companies, alleging that their children were killed or injured while mining for cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The lawsuit further alleges that the young children are being forced to work full-time jobs under extremely dangerous conditions at the expense of their educations and futures with the defendants knowingly benefiting from and providing substantial support to this artisanal mining system. Cobalt extraction is beset with concerns of illegal mining, human rights abuses and corruption and this could be regarded as an ordinary suit lodged by human rights advocates and interests groups against erring mining companies operating in Africa. This is in fact a landmark suit in the annals of the mining industry.More than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the ‘copper belt’ of the south-eastern provinces of DRC. Cobalt is a mineral used to produce lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, laptops and smartphones. What makes this case interesting is that among the defendants in the case are some of the world’s largest tech companies - Apple, Alphabet (which is the parent company of Google), Microsoft, Dell and Tesla. The tech companies are accused of aiding and abetting the deaths and serious injuries of children working in cobalt mines, a vital cog in the corporations’ supply chain in the manufacture of their products.Digital Technology Drives Demand for New Economy MineralsDigital technology is becoming a defining factor in the future of mining operations. Robotics and automation through drones, autonomous vehicles and remote-controlled operational systems will be rolled out more widely to enhance exploration efforts production. Cloud computing, information sharing and big data enable work to be performed remotely and more flexibly taking employees away from hazardous on-site events and improving health and safety conditions.On the demand side, technology is also impacting the market for mining’s outputs. The rise of electric vehicles and the production of an ever-growing variety of high tech and green technologies, have also boosted demand and competition for new economy minerals. ‘New economy minerals’ is an umbrella term for a range of metals and mineral elements used in many emerging technologies including electric vehicles, renewable energy products, low-emission power sources, consumer devices, and products for the medical, defense and scientific research sectors. Technology have also expedited the dramatic rise of the ‘sharing economy’, where consumers use their smartphones to share goods and services such as accommodation, transportation, and finance, as well as streaming of entertainment and data.According to a recent report by McKinsey, some 1.8 billion people are expected to “join the global consuming class by 2025”, a huge 75% increase from 2010. The mining industry will be hugely affected by this growth, with predicted shortages of a range of metals and minerals including copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium.Tech Companies - Emerging Big Miners? Flushed with capital and brand-savvy, technology companies who are major users of mining products, want to take full control of their supply chains and are out-competing incumbent conventional miners, who are struggling for the capital, skills and capacity to innovate. These new players have access to cutting edge technologies and a track record of success in highly regulated environments such as healthcare, finance or defense. They know they can do a better job and are free of legacy issues attached to the mining industry. These new entrants can take advantage of low valuations and asset fire sales from the conventional miners. Technology companies have become direct or indirect investors as a way of shoring up and securing supply and are moving to control whole value chains from raw material sourcing up to product delivery of new economy minerals. Using blockchain technology, new technology entrants can engage in mining without owning any mines or distribution infrastructures in the same way that Uber does with no cars and Airbnb, with no real estate listings. The transformation to digital technology and low-carbon clean energy was further expedited by the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted lives and operations but heightened the use of the app economy. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are now aggressively placing new bets as the coronavirus pandemic has made them near-essential services, with people turning to them to shop online, entertain themselves and stay in touch with loved ones and business colleagues.New investments by tech giants are transforming the landscape of the resources industry. Among those leading the charge are tech billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, who have all built their careers on innovation, thinking outside the box and pushing through disruptive change. They are backers of technology fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), which joined forces with hedge fund a16z to invest in mineral exploration company KoBold Metals and its search for ‘ethical’ cobalt. Google, on the other hand also entered into a partnership with a global consulting firm to boost productivity in mining in Kazakhstan.Back in 2015, automotive and energy storage company, Tesla signed early stage agreements with junior mining companies, with no prior existing production, to supply their new ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada with lithium. The deal signaled to the world’s incumbent lithium miners that new customers like Tesla are not frightened to explore high-risk, high return alternatives when they find that current market conditions do not suit their needs. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is reportedly considering taking the company into the mining business to gain more control over its supply chain and the scalability of raw materials for its electric car and battery work.Meanwhile lawmakers and regulators in Washington and Europe are sounding the alarm over the tech giants’ concentration of power and how that may have hurt competitors. Without any pushback from regulators, big tech companies would almost unquestionably come out of the pandemic more powerful.Clean Energy Transition - Goodbye Fossil Fuels? Hello Minerals!The pandemic has caused disruptions to the renewable energy industry in its supply chains, and slowdowns in permitting and construction have delayed projects. Still, analysts agree the renewable energy sector’s fundamentals are strong. Technologies have matured and prices dropped, to the point where renewables in most cases provide cheaper energy than fossil fuels. Policymakers are now starting to shift their focus from pandemic challenges to economic recovery and energy infrastructure plans.The fossil fuel industry is among the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, with leading oil, gas and petrochemical companies losing an average of 45% of their total market value. The challenge from the coronavirus for oil & gas companies has been heightened by the oil price collapse and continuing price uncertainty because of weaker demand from the transportation and power industry. With the crisis also hastening a global shift to cleaner energy, fossil fuels will likely be cheaper than expected in the coming decades, while emitting the carbon they contain will get more expensive. These two simple assumptions mean that tapping some petroleum fields no longer makes economic sense. British Petroleum announced that it would no longer do any exploration in new countries. The pandemic will likely discourage exploration and about 10% of the world’s recoverable oil resources—some 125 billion barrels— is expected to become obsolete and stranded assets. Some larger companies would evaluate its portfolio of discoveries and leave some undeveloped. Complicated projects could be shelved in favor of fields that are quicker to develop.Less than a decade ago, Exxon Mobil was the most valuable company in the world. On the last working day of August this year, it was taken out of the Dow Jones industrial average after nearly a century of inclusion in the index. Exxon and other oil giants mostly missed out on the fracking boom, and on the move away from fossil fuels. Apple which became a US Dollar Two Trillion company in market capitalization is now the world’s most valuable company. Today the personal wealth of Jeff Bezos of Amazon is worth more than Exxon. Exxon and the oil industry is giving way to a dominant tech industry with Exxon’s spot in the stock exchange being taken over by a tech company: will ask, what is the role of mining in the clean energy transition. A new World Bank Group report, “Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition”, analyzes how the clean energy transition will impact future mineral demand. The report finds that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, can increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. It estimates that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2°C future.The report also finds that even though clean energy technologies will require more minerals, the carbon footprint of their production—from extraction to end use—will account for only 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel technologies. The report underscores the important role that recycling and reuse of minerals will play in meeting increasing mineral demand. It notes that even if the recycling rates for minerals like copper and aluminum is scaled up by 100%, recycling and reuse would still not be enough to meet the demand for renewable energy technologies and energy storage.Amidst the pressure to continue or even increase the use of clean energy and electric cars, a report by the Manhattan Institute entitled “Mines, Minerals, and ‘Green’ Energy: A Reality Check” postulated issues that were left out in the discussions of the environmental and supply-chain implications in renewable energy technology.According to the report, no energy system is actually ‘renewable’, since all machines require the continual mining and processing of millions of tons of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that inevitably wears out. Compared with hydrocarbons, green machines entail, on average, a ten-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy.This means that any significant expansion of today’s modest level of green energy will create an unprecedented increase in global mining for needed minerals and radically exacerbate existing environmental and labor challenges in emerging markets. Among the material realities of green energy cited by the report are:Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than ten times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society.A single electric car contains more cobalt than a thousand smartphone batteries; the blades on a single wind turbine have more plastic than five million smartphones; and a solar array that can power one data center uses more glass than fifty million phones.Replacing hydrocarbons with green machines under current plans will vastly increase the mining of various critical minerals around the world. For example, a single electric car battery weighing a thousand pounds requires extracting and processing some five hundred thousand pounds of materials. Averaged over a battery’s life, each mile of driving an electric car “consumes” five pounds of earth. Using an internal combustion engine consumes about 0.2 pounds of liquids per mile. Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of a hundred barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil. By 2050, with current plans, the quantity of worn-out solar panels—much of it non-recyclable—will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste, along with over 3 million tons per year of non-recyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than ten million tons per year of batteries will become garbage.Green machines mean mining more materials per unit of energy. Since clean tech is about supplying energy in a more ‘sustainable’ fashion, one needs to consider not just the physical mining realities but also the hidden energy costs of the underlying materials themselves. Finally, in any full accounting of environmental realities, there is the disposal challenge inherent in the very large quantities of batteries, wind turbines, and solar cells after they wear out.Ethical Sourcing of Minerals for Tech Companies - Smarter and Greener?Ethical supply chains and ‘green’ practices will be on the agenda for tech giants with mining ventures, a brand promise that the minerals that go into their products are produced in the most responsible way and meeting the changing expectations of their consumers. A poll completed by Forbes in 2018 showed that 88% of consumers would like brands to be more environmentally friendly and ethical. As such, it is unsurprising that companies are increasingly starting to investigate not only their sustainability but also that of their supply chain. One condition that can slow a company’s growth is poor sustainability performance, as measured in environmental and social impact, as well as permission from consumers, investors, and regulators to do business.While tech companies may declare their deep commitment to the responsible sourcing of ‘ethical’ minerals that go into its products, how can a company ensure the sustainability of its supplier? With supplies of metals like nickel becoming depleted, companies may have to broaden their supplier pools if they wish to expand but doing so will increase the risk of having to rely on suppliers that do not meet sustainability standards. Elon Musk promises a ‘giant contract’ with the miner that can supply nickel for Tesla batteries at low cost with minimal environmental impact. However, the nickel projects expected to supply a large part of the demand being built in Southeast Asia will rely on coal, fuel oil or diesel to run their operations leaving a very large carbon footprint. In Indonesia which holds about a quarter of all nickel reserves, companies operating there are investing in projects that will use acid to process low-grade nickel ore and produce high-quality battery chemicals. The diluted byproducts will be piped out to the sea using a process known as deep-sea tailings disposal.Apple, recently has been accused of abetting child labour and environmental damage. In recent years the company has sought to clean up its act by collaborating with suppliers to increase their usage of renewable energy and altering designs to reduce its usage of key aspects like aluminium.A significant proportion of cobalt and tantalum, both used in handheld gadgets, is produced by artisanal miners in countries where regulations can be lax or non-existent. In addition, data of origin from the mine site passes through seven stages from mine to manufacturer and can be changed along this process, thus data credibility is endangered by unscrupulous traders and middlemen.Monitoring by tech companies of their raw materials suppliers would be increasingly complicated. While companies have no real power to make their suppliers pursue sustainable practices, some tech companies are joining forces with the purpose of helping suppliers guarantee the ethical sourcing of such minerals. These companies share secured information using enterprise-grade blockchain middleware in solving the mineral sourcing problem faced by technology companies. Others are creating platforms that provide technology companies transparency on the origin of the minerals they use to avoid funding conflict or child labour, while also giving them the control to make contracts with the miners directly.From Trade War to Tech WarThe world’s largest economies obviously the most voracious users of new economy minerals are also involved in securing the commodities owing to its economic and strategic value. Rare earth metals, a suite of 17 elements, are crucial to important technological applications ranging from electric cars and smartphones to satellites, lasers, fighter jet engines and missiles. China owns 36.7 per cent of global reserves and is the world’s largest producer and exporter. Its output last year accounted for 62.8 per cent of the world’s total, according to the US Geological Survey. Because rare-earth elements have essential uses in a range of civil and military technologies such as weapons guidance systems, China’s control of supply is a powerful commercial and diplomatic bargaining chip.China supplies the US about 80 per cent of its rare earths requirements from 2015-2018. However, exports of rare earth elements decreased down to 1,620 tonnes in July 2020, a drop of 69.1 per cent from a year earlier and down 44 per cent from June, according to Chinese customs data. Earlier threats to cut-off supplies of the elements, especially the two most important heavy rare earths, neodymium and praseodymium, have caused short-term disturbances in the market.Part of the decline can be attributed to the risks of relying on China for rare earth supplies and the US restarting operations last year at mines in California. As the US is launching sanctions against Chinese technology companies and threatening to punish Chinese financial institutions, there are voices in China saying the country can take countermeasures by restricting rare earth exports to the US. The rising calls on rare earth trade came as the escalating rivalry between the world’s two largest economies has fueled concerns over a trade war turning into a technology war. Whether China intends to proceed with a trade embargo on rare earths is unclear but the threat itself has sparked a reaction which involves the U.S. government and several allies in pushing ahead with plans to develop non-Chinese supplies of rare earths.The rollout of fifth generation, or 5G, network technology would be a battlefield in the US-China tech war. The upgrade from 4G to 5G is expected to exponentially increase internet-connectivity in industries that require big data, improve off-load computing to the cloud, and enable huge advances in automation and artificial intelligence. The 5G infrastructure will intertwine factories, power plants, airports, hospitals and government agencies.Huawei Technologies, a Chinese company which is the world’s biggest telecommunications company and also the largest manufacturer of smartphones, has all but cornered the market for the roll out of 5G networks. The US has security concerns over the company and has accused it of rampant theft of intellectual property and selling U.S. tech to hostile states like Iran and North Korea. The advent of 5G using Huawei’s technology and network infrastructure brings with it enormous geo-strategic implications to the defense and security of the US and its allies.The US is doing everything it can to slowdown Huawei’s technological advance not only in the US’ domestic market, but also putting intense pressure on allies around the world to ban Huawei from their 5G networks on national-security grounds. So far, the UK government has heeded the call to ban Huawei from participating in its 5G mobile network. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India have imposed similar bans while numerous countries alleged that the company’s products may purposely contain security holes and malware that China’s government could use for spying purposes. Huawei also faced numerous supply chain, chip and software partner challenges amid new U.S. regulations against the company. Google, Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom are cutting supplies to Huawei, according to multiple reports. However, industry executives and experts warned that U.S. restrictions on Huawei are likely to choke the Chinese company’s access to even off-the-shelf computer microchips ultimately disrupting global tech supply. TikTok, a popular video-streaming app and social media platform developed by China’s ByteDance, is similarly accused of data privacy violation by the Trump administration. Trump issued an executive order forcing ByteDance to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business. Under the order, ByteDance is expected to destroy all its copies of TikTok data attached to U.S. users.ConclusionThere are two stark realities arising from the digital and clean energy transformations - the mining industry is here to stay and tech money is flowing into the industry. There will also be disruptions in the way that mining is done as the industry migrate to a digital core. Not only will digital technology be an integral part in the mining value chain but companies will also need to address the sustainability and ethical challenges demanded from them not only by direct stakeholders but from consumers as well. The tech sector, bereft of legacy issues, offers to innovate and improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, enhance productivity, and improve safety and environmental performance. Let’s see if they can live up to their promises. As the cliche goes, “Go ahead, put your money where your mouth is”.Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Feel free to follow Atty. Penarroyo’s professional blogsite at www.penarroyo.comReferences:Bridgwater, Holly, Vanadium Industry In The News, Bill Gates and Richard Branson Have Their Sights on the Mining Sector — and Investment Opportunities for Startups Abound, Casey, JP and Lempriere, Molly, Debate: Can Tech Giants Like Tesla and Apple Change Mining for the Better? Mining Technology, 19 November 2019,, Kirsten; La Porta, Daniele; Fabregas, Thao P.; Laing, Tim; Drexhage, John, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition, World Bank Climate-Smart Mining Facility, 2020,, Laura, Oil Companies Wonder If It’s Worth Looking for Oil Anymore, Bloomberg, August 16, 2020, Mining Really Ready for the Future?, Mark P., Mines, Minerals, and "Green" Energy: A Reality Check, Manhattan Institute, July 9, 2020,, Ewelina, Are These Tech Companies Complicit In Human Rights Abuses Of Child Cobalt Miners In Congo? Forbes, Jan 13, 2020,, Frank, China’s Rare Earth Export Plunge Caused by Coronavirus, Not Beijing Agenda, Industry Group Says, South China Morning Post, 18 August 2020, Companies Join Forces to Promote Ethical Sourcing of Minerals, MINING.COM, October 11, 2019, Future of Work: The Changing Skills Landscape for Miners, Ernst and Young, Mining Minerals Council of Australia,


Philippine Resources - May 29, 2019

ECCP Launched the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum

By Marcelle P. Villegas26 April 2019 - The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) organized and launched the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum at the Marriott Hotel Manila. The forum’s theme was “Harnessing Natural Resources for Inclusiveness and Sustainable Development”.ECCP describes the current status of the Philippine mining industry:“The mining industry in the Philippines is a major economic activity but remains operating below potential. There is a considerable anti-mining sentiment in the country especially at the subnational levels where environmental impact and displacement of indigenous peoples caused by mining operations have been the focus of much debate. Small-scale mining is also contentious, due to poor regulations and overlapping policies between national and local government. The ECCP believes that the contribution to national development can be further enhanced through better regulatory and enabling policies, best practices in value sharing, environment-friendly technologies and socially responsible investments.” [1]According to ECCP, the objective of the 1st Philippine Natural Resources Development Forum intends to convene decision makers and other key stakeholders from the Mining (Metallic and Non-metallic subsectors) as well as Upstream Oil & Gas, Coal subsectors, to discuss challenges, opportunities, policy reforms and best practices in harnessing the country’s natural resources and their contribution to sustainable development. [1]Present during the event were key players in the mineral resources industry from the public and private sectors. There were also participants and attendees from civil society organisations and academic groups. The forum discussed the latest issues and challenges being faced by the mining industry in the Philippines. The forum and its speakers thoroughly enumerated the many ways that the industry has contributed to the Philippine economic and social development. The forum also covered discussions on good governance, environmental management within a mining operation, global standards and sustainable mining practices.The forum had four sessions namely: Contribution to National, Local and Community Development, Global Standards in Enhancing Inclusion along the Value Chain, Good Practices in Responsible Natural Resource Management and Inclusive Value Chain, and Unlocking Future Growth Opportunities.The Welcome Address was given by Mr Nabil Francis, President of ECCP who emphasised the great potential and role of mining as an economic development catalyst in the country, for which proper information sharing, such as this forum, is key in solving the industry’s current problems. “While there is much to do in terms of regulation and improving doing business in this sector, it is very encouraging to see you all here today willing to listen, willing to learn, willing to contribute to this common goal,” he stated.During the first session, Acting Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Atty. Wilfredo Moncano, was a speaker and he discussed the current status of the mineral industry in the Philippines, including the approved mining tenements, the sector’s economic contribution, and current and proposed fiscal regime. [2]On his keynote speech, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), mentioned five aspects of proper management of our mineral resources: (a) social; (b) environmental; (c) technological; (d) industrialization; and (e) exploration aspect.The Secretary noted the importance of “social acceptability” in the industry, and treating host communities more than just as a legal or regulatory sense. In the environmental aspect of operations, he emphasised the need to pay more attention to waste production since mineral extraction is the largest global waste producer. The secretary expressed his discontent on the weak enforcement of environmental laws and mitigating measures, and implored the mining sector to cooperate and “strictly comply with environmental laws and standards.”[2]For this, the Secretary recommended the upgrade of monitoring system, standards, and practices in order to have better control on environmental issues. Secretary Cimatu stated that we should ensure availability of mineral resources for the future generation, thus we have to pursue sustainable exploration and extraction methods including but not limited to shifting to renewable energy. Representatives of Quisumbing Torres, Atty. Gaston Perez de Tagle and Atty. Dennis Quintero were the moderators of the Open Forum. In one interaction with speakers from the public sector, one of the delegates was the international award-winning architect and urban planner, Arch. Felino “Jun” A. Palafox, Jr. He pointed out (through his question) that given that the Philippines is very much rich in natural resources, that the taxes generated from the operations is clearly a solution in alleviating poverty in Philippines.During the four sessions of the forum, the other speakers were Usec. Bayani Agabin (Undersecretary for Legal Services, Department of Finance), Mr Jerome G. Cipriano (SGS Phils., Inc.), Mr Isidro C. Alcantara, Jr. (Chairman, Philippine Nickel Industry Association), Mr John Reinier Dizon (VP - Strategy and Business Development, Republic Cement Services, Inc.), Mr. Angelo Kris Marcos (Senior Contracting and Procurement Manager, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.), Mr Michael Spence (Managing Partner of Southeast Asia Partners in Performance), Usec. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh (DENR), Mr Gerard Brimo (Chairman, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines), Mr Renato C. Sunico (Chair and President, Cement Manufacturers’ Asso. of the Phils.), Engr. Rufino Bomasang (Chairman, Petroleum Asso. of the Phils.), and more. Some facts about the Philippine Mining Industry from ECCP:~ 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines are possible areas for metallic minerals~ 9 million hectares of land are identified as having high mineral potentialThe Philippines is endowed with bountiful metallic and non-metallic mineral resources. It is the 5th most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper and chromite. The Philippines has the world’s largest copper-gold deposit in the world. It also exports some iron ore, chromium, zinc and silver, and produces oil and gas.The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) estimates that the country has $840 billion worth of untapped mineral wealth.Approximately 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines are possible areas for metallic minerals; nine million hectares of land are identified as having high mineral potential. The Philippines metal deposits is estimated at 21.5 billion metric tons and non-metallic minerals are at 19.3 billion metric tons.- - -Reference:[1] Retrieved from[2] Retrieved from

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Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Philippines Unlikely to Fulfill China's Nickel Ore Requirements

Despite the resumption of many mining operations in the region, the Philippines is unlikely to fulfill China's nickel ore requirements, according to an S&P report. Philippine mined nickel production is expected to increase over the next five years, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence industry survey, as producers aim to satisfy Chinese nickel ore demand. However, S&P analysts said, “We believe that legislation will remain a major hurdle for restarts and new projects, therefore the Philippines will be unable to meet Chinese nickel ore demand over our forecast period.” Three nickel mines in the world that had been closed due to the coronavirus disease in 2019 were reopened in 2020 when the government turned to the mining industry to help offset the economic effects of the disease (Covid-19). These restarts and demand from current mining facilities, according to foreign analysts, are expected to raise Philippine mined nickel output from 340,000 tonnes in 2020 to 550,000 tonnes in 2025. “However, we believe that existing environmental restrictions on Philippine mining will limit the scope for further mine restarts or additional production from new mining projects in the medium term,” S&P analysts said. “This will prevent the Philippines from meeting China’s nickel ore requirements in Indonesia’s absence, driving Chinese primary output down from an estimated 715,000 tonnes in 2020 to 490,000 tonnes in 2025.” The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) previously reported that the country's nickel export value increased by P1 billion from January to September 2020, compared to P24 billion in the same timeframe last year. According to a survey from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine nickel industry produced 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT) in 2020, down 14% from the previous year's 21.6 million DMT production. MGB stated that the lower output was primarily due to the increased community quarantine imposed by Covid-19 from March to May 2020, during which mineral product movement was restricted across the world. The increased performance in export value for the nickel industry, according to PNIA President Dante Bravo, was primarily motivated by demand increases in nickel prices. China's consistent demand boosted the world nickel price in 2020.


Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Forecasts for PH Development in 2021 Have Been Reduced

Fitch Solutions, a London-based think tank, has slashed its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year, citing the return to tough lockdown measures in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is expected to dampen domestic investment in the short term. Fitch Solutions now expects the Philippines' actual gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 5.8% this year, down from the initial estimate of 7.6%, due to the government's capital spending push being derailed. “The surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines in March and lockdown measures imposed reflect the continued risks to the archipelago’s economic outlook,” the think tank said in a research note dated April 1. The government has reimposed curfew policies in Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces, affecting an unprecedented 24 million inhabitants, as it struggles to control the pandemic. Given the continuing increase in cases and the long-term effect on hospital capacity, Fitch Solutions expects the lockout steps to be extended beyond two weeks. “The likelihood of further outbreaks in other regions remains high and given the slow vaccination rollout in the country (less than 1 per cent of the population has been vaccinated as of end-March) we believe the Philippines’ recovery will continue to be hampered by the pandemic,” Fitch Solutions said. Regional outlook The think tank went on to say that its new estimate of 5.8% also had downside risks. It stated that its forecast for a moderate recovery this year was based on the assumption that domestic demand would steadily improve and the government's investment plans would be realized, resulting in a sharp increase in domestic activity. “However, the slow vaccine rollout and recurrent difficulties in containing outbreaks look set to stall the recovery further,” it noted. A survey of economists in the Asean-5 and India found that the Philippines' growth projection was 5.2 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in the previous poll last December. Although Asian countries that carried out mass vaccination earlier, such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore, saw their near-term economic prospects boost, gradual inoculation tempered economists' growth aspirations for the Philippines, according to a poll released on Monday by the think tank Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER). Economists following the Philippines predicted that GDP will contract by 3.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, up from 0.7 per cent a year before. GDP will rise 8.4% year over year in the second quarter, 5.6 per cent in the third quarter, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter due to base effects from last year's low. Malaysia and Thailand, including the Philippines, have weaker growth forecasts for 2021. “Most economists see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination as one of the most significant positive developments over the last three months and all three upward-trending countries have rolled out vaccinations relatively sooner. This may have improved economists’ outlooks. Delays in vaccination and the spread of COVID-19 variants are listed as factors that might damage the economies,” JCER said. Top concerns Faster dissemination of COVID-19 variants and delayed vaccination, or "corona shock," were described as top economic issues in the Philippines, but higher inflation was also identified as a major threat to the country's recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. According to analysts, headline inflation will average 4.5 per cent in the first quarter, 4.8 per cent in the second, 4.7 per cent in the third, and 4.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, averaging 4.5 per cent in 2021, way above the target range of 2-4 per cent. With a 6.1 per cent increase, Singapore is forecast to lead economic growth in the Asean-5 this year, led by Malaysia's 5.3 per cent and Philippines' 5.2 per cent. According to the JCER report, India will rise at a higher rate of 11.2 per cent in 2021. Economists predicted that the Philippines' average GDP growth will be 6% in 2022, up from 5.8% in December but still below the government's goal.


Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Expected to Open in June 2021

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is concentrating not only on the civil work’s development of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Project but also on keeping the workplace secure and clean. DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said, "that at 86 per cent and with just a few more days to fully complete the new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, we are mindful that a single case of COVID-19 in the project can lead to an interruption, if not total work stoppage" Secretary Villar recently issued revised guidelines in Department Order #30 for the implementation of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ infrastructure projects, both public and private, during the public health crisis. "Although the bridge project is being rushed for completion in June 2021, it is critical that construction firms be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the increased risk of illness from COVID-19," Secretary Villar added.  Emil K. Sadain, Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations, and UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 Project Manager Benjamin Bautista checked the physical progress of the bridge project on Monday, April 5, 2021, and the contractor's compliance with protocols that cover prevention, detection, and rapid response to maintain construction work continuity as workers who have been living in the barracks resume work after the Lenten season. “Let’s get to work healthy to get the job done”, Undersecretary Sadain reminded the contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation citing the current health situation, particularly in the NCR Plus bubble.   In his report to Secretary Villar, Undersecretary Sadain reported that the project is more than 12% ahead of time, having completed all bridge substructure works for abutments A and B on both sides and piers of the Makati approach bridge; the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridge; concrete box girder for the approach bridge; and the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridg; and two (2) prestressed concrete box girder segments using the traditional approach. Post-tensioning and grouting works, formworks and rebar installation for the closure section in the side spans, formworks installation for the 2-meter closure section in the main bridge span, and preparatory works for approach road construction on both sides are now the focus of bridge construction activities. The new 506-linear meter bridge, funded by China and introduced by the DPWH UPMO - Roads Management Cluster 1 (Bilateral), would have a diameter of 21.65 meters, capable of four (4) lanes instead of two (2), and three-meter sidewalks on both sides. The P1.46 billion new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, will handle 50,000 vehicles a day and minimize travel time between Mandaluyong and Makati to 12 minutes. The bridge will connect Estrella Street in Makati to Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, helping to relieve traffic congestion on EDSA by providing an alternative route for motorists.

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