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Jimbo Gulle - June 08, 2021
Gov’t Updates List of Mining Assets Ahead of Disposal
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is updating the mineral resources and mineral reserves database on state-owned mining assets in preparation for their sale. About P21 billion in revenue can be generated by 100 mining projects in the pipeline, which can be used to help support economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the MGB said in a BusinessWorld report. Updating the list of state-owned mining assets for sale will support government revenue, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said. “This is in preparation for the bidding and sale of mining assets to gain revenue and help the country recover from the economic devastation of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” Cimatu said. MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said some assets under the Privatization and Management Office (PMO) of the Finance Department have sufficient data and can be put up for auction soon. According to the MGB chief, the PMO and the Philippine Mining Development Corp. are responsible for the sale of the government-owned mining assets via auction. PMO mining assets include Pacific Nickel Philippines, Inc. in Surigao del Norte; North Davao Mining Property in Davao del Norte; Maricalum Mining Corp. in Negros Occidental; and Marcopper Mining Corp. in Marinduque. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order No. 130 on April 14, which removed the nine-year ban on new mineral agreements and allowed the review of current mining deals for potential renegotiation. MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said some of the information required for a possible sale is the volume of mineral resources and reserves, and the technical basis for the estimates. “A mineral resource refers to the concentration of materials of economic interest found in the Earth’s crust, while a mineral reserve is the economically mineable portion of a mineral resource,” Moncano said in a statement. He identified Basay Mining Corp. in Negros Oriental, which ceased operations in 1983, and the Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp. in Samar, which was foreclosed by the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Philippine National Bank in 1984, as some of the idle government mining assets to undergo the review.
Jimbo Gulle - June 08, 2021
Solon: PH Coastline Receding Due to Chinese Mining Black Sand
Black sand mining has been “massive” along the Luzon coastline with Chinese miners extracting the mineral with heavy equipment and shipping them out in barges, Probinsyano Ako party-list Rep. Jose “Bonito” Singson Jr. said during a House committee hearing last week. The situation warrants the imposition of a ban against exporting black sand ore, or magnetite, an ore of iron used in steel production, the lawmaker from the Singson clan of the Ilocos region said in a CNN Philippines report. Singson authored House Bill No. 6321, which seeks to prohibit the exportation of black sand and its derivatives in its raw form to other countries. “[Chinese miners] would bring their barge and then they would use massive machinery to extract the black sand from our shoreline,” Singson told the House Committee on Natural Resources in a CNN Philippines report. Ronald Recidoro, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines executive director who attended the virtual hearing, shared a similar observation. “It appears the contractor is helping by dredging the river, but why does the contractor cart out black sand? When you dredge, you just put it aside,” he said in a separate interview. Recidoro added that the regulatory regime for magnetite black sand really needs to be reviewed, since the national government currently has no oversight function on this. Black sand mining should be covered by national policy, such that the national government should keep watch over black sand miners whose operations span as far as Cagayan province, which is prone to massive flooding, both Singson and the Chamber of Mines said. Raw black sand should first be processed locally to create a domestic industry that generates jobs, they added. “We have steel manufacturing plants in Iligan that use only recycled steel/iron and imported iron as raw materials,” Recidoro said. Industry data show black sand mining exists in the Ilocos Region, including Cagayan province, as well as in Leyte. The Ilocos Region faces the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea that China increasingly has been trying to militarize. China’s huge appetite for steel has brought it closer to Philippine shores, which Singson said is a red flag as Luzon’s coastlines are receding.
Jimbo Gulle - June 08, 2021
Benguet Corp. reports P518-m net profit in Q1
Benguet Corp. reported on June 2 that its net income jumped over nine times in the first quarter from a year ago. The listed miner is riding high on the momentum of "exceptional operating performance" in 2020 after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources lifted the suspension of its nickel operation in Zambales province. Benguet said it registered consolidated net income of P518.6 million in the first quarter of 2021, up from P56.7-million net income in the same period last year. The company said consolidated revenue also grew by more than three times in the three-month period from a year earlier. “The 915-percent increase in after-tax income was the result of combined earnings from its gold, nickel and lime projects which accounted for total consolidated revenue of P1.3 billion in the first quarter of this year or over three times of last year’s revenue of P408 million,” the company said in a statement. While cost and operating expenses unavoidably went up by 68 percent year-on-year to P571.1 million on higher corresponding production, Benguet said selling expenses and payment of excise taxes and royalty fees to the government, prudent cost management, substantial nickel export, and improved gold production volumes supported the big positive variance. “Amidst the pandemic, the company is steadily pursuing a growth strategy as it continues to implement precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of its employees, contractors and the host communities,” Benguet Corp. said.
Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021
First Offshore Magnetite Iron Mining in the PH
Last December, Apollo Global Capital’s (PSE: APL) subsidiary, JDVC Resources Corporation, announced that Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted them a permit to start the commercial operations of the country’s first offshore magnetite iron mining project. According to JDVC and APL consultant, Jun Herrera, the mining operations in Cagayan are expected to start by mid or end of February. He said that the first newly-built deep sea mining vessel arrived in Cagayan and needed to take shelter for now due to strong sea currents. In relation to this project, they assured the government that there will be minimal impact on the marine ecosystem as per the studies and survey conducted by a Singapore-based company. Their study shows that there is no coral or aquamarine life within the mining area which is located 150 meters below sea level. Herrera stated that three more vessels are expected to arrive this year. The vessel is capable of commercial extraction, sampling, testing and production of magnetite iron.  With regards to the apprehension of some residents of Ballesteros in Cagayan that this offshore mining operation will destroy the coral ecosystem, APL addressed the issue by stating that such assumption by the locals has no basis. APL stated last January, “We won’t even be mining in their waters. In the first place, our mining operation will be in the waters of Buguey and Gonzaga towns, and at a distance of over 14 kilometers. That’s more than two horizon lengths away from the shoreline.” Lazaro Ramos, a resident of Ballesteros, sent a formal complaint to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. Ramos warned them of the possible “catastrophe” that the offshore mining will bring about should it resumes. He mentioned in comparison a study conducted by Craig Smith from the University of Hawaii regarding the ocean seabed in the NE Pacific abyssal waters. APL, however, contradicted this argument by Ramos and said that the study by Craig Smith is applicable to a different part of the ocean and not necessarily comparable with the mining site in Cagayan. “That’s a different part of the Pacific. It looks at the ocean bed more than 200 meters below sea level, whereas we can only go down to 150 meters with current technology. Moreover, the Smith study did not look at magnetite iron reserves. From the experience of countries like Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand, magnetite iron is known to be toxic to corals, fish and other aquamarine life.” Moreover, JDVC emphasised on the study results done by the Singapore-based survey company whom they commissioned to conduct a full “sea bottom profile” of its mining tenements off Cagayan. As mentioned, their study reveals no corals or aquamarine life in the area. APL also reported that they have done their part in coordinating with the locals and providing corporate social responsibility activities for the residents of Buguey and Gonzaga. “We’re proud to say that over 90 percent of the residents support us and are even anxious for us to get started.” According to Herrera, the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga received funding from the Development Bank of the Philippines. These are the municipalities covered by the mining project. DBP grated JDVC a grant worth $8-million credit line for the magnetite iron mining project. Herrera said, “We have proven to them [DBP] that it’s environmentally safe.” He added, “The DBP loan has zero borrowings yet as of now, hence, our company remains to be zero debts and internally funded by our shareholders. The DBP loan will only kick off once we have the letter of credit presented to the bank for the discounting the letter of credit of export buyers, to obtain a 90-day working capital, to fund the production of the ordered iron ore.” This project is seen as profitable, because magnetite mining has a strong market globally. In China, for example, they consider the steel industry as their “roadmap for their economic recovery”. Herrera mentioned that JVDC is an ISO-certified company. This means that there is an assurance that they shall comply with environmental standards. With all these assurances of a promising mining project ahead, some still have apprehension about it, perhaps rooting down to past incidents. In November 2020, the Cagayan Valley region was greatly affected by the Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses. The two simultaneous typhoons are classified as category-5 and category-4 tropical cyclones respectively. As an effect, the devastation was great marked by massive flooding in Isabela and Cagayan provinces.  The residents in those areas blame the National Irrigation Association (NIA) for the flood when they opened the floodgates of the nearby Magat Dam on the last minute. The two provinces were submerged in high waters as high as a two-storey building. NIA on the other hand firmly contradicted such claim and explained that the release of water from Magat Dam was not the main cause of flooding. NIA points out that proper and sufficient warnings were given to those communities in low-lying areas. Additionally, they stated that the volume of water released was only 25% of the carrying capacity of the Cagayan River. The river is the longest stream in the Philippines that serves as the catch basin of the nine provinces in three regions.  Aside from the two typhoons, a second issue related with the river was about the illegal magnetite mining at the mouth of the Cagayan River in the municipality of Aparri. The provincial board of Cagayan appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 to stop the dredging operations of Pacific Offshore Exploration, Inc. (POEI) due to potential threat to the environment and the livelihood of the locals. The Chinese company Zhong Hai Gravel Group headed by Dong Biao Su is POEI’s partner in that operation. The company was controversial recently after the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard raided its Zhonhai 68 dredging vessel during a maritime security patrol off the Bataan coast. “Bureau of Customs are poised to issue a warrant of seizure and detention against the undocumented vessel.” However, the Chinese Embassy in Manila claimed that the vessel is technically non-Chinese because it is registered under an African flag of convenience.  Currently, JDVC Resources Corp. is the first and only company that was granted a declaration of mining project feasibility by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to extract magnetite sand and other minerals in Cagayan. In response to Cagayan’s decade-old black sand mining problem, the launching of Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project last February 2 is seen to solve the problem. DENR stated early in February that mining regulations will strictly monitor the extraction of magnetite or black sand in the coastal waters and rivers of Cagayan province.  With regards to APL’s/JDVC Resources Corp.’s offshore magnetite iron mining, MGB Director Wilfredo Monaco stated the project has gone through an environmental impact assessment system processes and the company has secured an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).  “JDVC has undergone environmental impact assessment and the company was issued an ECC, which means environmental issues have been considered by the EMB,” Moncano stated. Magnetite or black sand mining is supposed to be banned in the Philippines, but Moncano explained that the extraction of the said mineral offshore is allowed. He said, “Mining in shoreline is prohibited but offshore mining is allowed. If it is at least 1,500 meters from the shoreline going out to the sea, it is allowed.” He also assured that the company’s operation will be monitored by the MGB and EMB, that in case of any destruction or damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem by JDVC Resources Corp., there will be a corresponding penalty under the mining law. “What is important is that the JDVC will not cause damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem,” he said. As for mining in rivers like in the Cagayan River, it is also allowed as long as the primary purpose of the project is river rehabilitation or restoration. One example is their plan to extract some 7 million metric tons of sand to remove three of the 19 sandbars along is stretch. Moncano said that the DENR-MGB will also monitor the dredging operations because while the activity is primarily flood mitigation, the minerals to be extracted include magnetite sand.  Moncano stated, “Black sand mining is also part of the purposes that’s why we will assess the mineral content of the river channel. If the magnetite sand contained surpasses the threshold of 6 percent, we will charge the company of 4-percent excise tax.” He said that every shipment will undergo mineral assessment. (--Marcelle P. Villegas, PRJ) References:  Flores, Alena Mae S. (31 Jan. 2021). Manila Standard. "Apollo Global announces subsidiary’s start of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan".  Gamboa, J. Albert (5 Feb. 2021). Business World. "Building back better in Cagayan Valley".  Mayuga, Jonathan L. (4 Feb. 2021). Business Mirror. "MGB exec vows to keep tabs of Cagayan River magnetite quarry operations set to start in February".
Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021
The Aftermath of the Carmen Copper Mine Landslide
After the tragic landslide that occurred at the open pit’s north wall at around 4:15 p.m. on Monday, 21 Dec. 2020, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 ordered the immediate suspension of the mine operations in Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC). According to MGB’s report last 22 Dec. 2020 on their official website, they stated “Initial investigations revealed there was no mining activity in the area on that day.”  On that day, landslide debris fell on the water at the pit bottom. This has an elevation of 41m above sea level. The landslide created a tsunami-like wave that reached an elevation of 105m in the southern portion of the pit where the workers were located. On 22 Dec. 2020, four fatalities were recorded along with six missing.  Further on, an assessment of the area was conducted by Director Pacquito Melicor Jr. (DENR Central Visayas Regional Executive Director), Director Armando Malicse (MGB 7 Regional Director), MGB Region 7 team, and Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Division. CCC and Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management team continued their search and retrieval operations on a limited scale due to unstable condition. MGB 7 technical personnel continues its on-site inspection and investigation in accordance with R.A. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and the DENR Administrative Order Nos. 2010-21 (Consolidated IRR of RA 7942) and 2000-98 (Mine Safety and Health Standards).  A list of names of workers who died was given by CCC to the Toledo Police Station Chief, Lt. Col. Junnel Caadlawon. The second list contains the names of those who are still missing.  Those who died from the landslide are the following: Junil S. Lagola, age 44, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, leadman Ernesto G. Caspe, age 54, from Dasmamac, Lutopan, checker Juan M. Tapang, age 44, from Don Andres Soriano Village, heavy equipment operator Dionisio Labang, from barangay Uling, Naga, backhoe operator/Anseca Contractor Those who are still missing are the following: Jose B. Carpentero, age 31, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator from Mine Services Department Jonwel S. Herediano, age 33, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, pump operator Simeon B. Laconas, age 33, from Barangay Biga, leadman - mine services department John Paul L. Resuelo, age 27, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator Renante F. Sepada, age 35, from Barangay Bagakay, pump operator Alfred C. Tautho, age 33, from Barangay Mainggit, welder Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) expressed their support and commitment to provide free education until college and allowances to all the children of its employees who died or are still missing after the tragedy last December. Based on a press statement of the company last 27 Dec. 2020, they have provided various forms of financial and other assistance to the immediate families of its deceased workers.  Additionally, CCC also offered employment opportunities for the victims’ next of kin, spouse and children. “CCC has given the same attention to the immediate family of the missing CCC employees and will afford them of the same commitments CCC provided to the family of the deceased,” according to the company’s statement. CCC also extended support to the family of the contractor who was among the victims.  On 8 Feb. 2021, Toledo City Mayor, Hon. Marjorie Piczon-Perales along with Vice-Mayor Jay B. Go met the families of the victims at the open shed of the City Hall Garden to provide them with “ayuda” or financial assistance. This was posted on the Toledo City Public Information Office social media page. The mayor granted the families of deceased workers the amount of Php15 million. For the victims who are injured, they were given Php5 million. Additionally, they were all given food packs.  On 29 Jan. 2021, the Office of Senator Christopher “Bong” Go distributed assistance to the Toledo City residents who were affected by the landslide in CCC mine. This was held at the Carmen Copper Recreation Center, Toledo City, Cebu. During the distribution, 248 families received meals, financial assistance, food packs, vitamins, face masks and face shields. Senator Go also gave bicycles and shoes to selected recipients, and computer tablets for their children to be used for online classes. Health and safety protocols were strictly implemented to avoid the further spread of COVID-19. The Senator was not present during the distribution but he sent them a video message with words of encouragement.  Senator Go also offered assistance to those who needed major medical operations such as heart surgeries. He urged those in need of such medical attention to seek assistance from any of the Malasakit Centers in the province.  While the local and national government along with CCC are busy sending assistance to the families of the victims of the December landslide, mining industry in general received backlashes from various groups who believe that the deaths and injuries could have been prevented. Barely a month before the landslide, there had been reports from residents of Barangay Biga in Toledo City who claim they warned officials of the MGB Central Visayas and CCC as well about large cracks in the village prior to the landslide. However, they said that their appeal was not properly addressed.  Biga Barangay Captian Pedro Sepada Jr. told a local newspaper in Cebu last 29 Dec. 2020 that prior to the landslide, barangay officials called for an emergency consultative meeting on 26 Nov. 2020 with representatives of CCC, MGB 7 and Biga residents to talk about the possible measures to be done after the cracks were discovered. Sepada said that MGB 7 Director Armando Malicse and CCC Vice President for Safety, Ignas Alburo were present. No representative from the Toledo City government was present. Sepada noted that during the meeting, they were not given a concrete response or alternative solution by CCC or MGB to provide assurance to the residents that they will all be safe while mining operations are ongoing. But Sepada said that they were simply told by MGB 7 and CCC officials that their place remained safe.  According to the local news reports in Toledo City, residents now believe the huge cracks caused the fatal landslide. “It was only after the landslide last Dec. 21, that they declared our area to be unsafe within a radius of 600-meter distance from the pipeline of Carmen Copper. They now say it’s unsafe. What happened to their guarantee of safety before?”  Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said last December that they shall leave the investigation to MGB before implementing any course of action. She mentioned that she will leave it up to the MGB 7 to decide whether or not CCC has any liability. Garcia said, “The investigation is not our expertise nor is that our mandate. MGB has already issued a suspension of operations and MGB is going to undertake the investigation. So let’s put things in proper perspective. While the investigation is ongoing, perhaps it is best to wait for the results.”  “I am not taking any sides. I want to be as objective as possible. However, there are some personalities who are not as objective because they have their own interest in Carmen Copper. They want to control so that they can do business with Carmen Copper. This is a warning to those who want to make it difficult.” Garcia also noted that CCC mining operations have given so much to Toledo City in terms of employment and the city’s development. She said that a thorough investigation is needed in order to prevent those with “personal interest” in the mining operations of CCC from ruining the lives of so many people working there.  Garcia assured the Province will provide assistance and support to the families of miners who died and those who remain missing after the landslide.  Renester P. Suraltra, a college professor wrote a commentary last December on SunStar Cebu with the title “Toledo tragedy: The untold story”. He wrote, “Who is always responsible for any mining accident? Is it nature or man? Who is at fault? Is it the bad weather or the safety engineer?” “Accidents may happen in the workplace but it can also be avoided. We can’t discount the fact that accidents can happen because of unsafe supervision, lack of situation awareness, and failure to identify the potential threat. That’s the job of the safety engineer under the direction and supervision of sympathetic and responsible management. If workers are dying frequently then responsible mining is a big issue.” “There is another lesson to be learned in the Toledo mining tragedy. We should never compromise safety and security. We can’t always blame nature out of man’s folly. One should think that the mining industry provides short-term revenue but long-term harmful effect on nature and the environment. Life is much precious than copper and gold.”  Acknowledgement: Ryan Peter Vivo Penaranda for Cebuano to English translation from some news articles Reference:  Mines and Geosciences Bureau Press Release (22 Dec. 2020)."Carmen Copper Mine In-Pit Landslide Incident".  ANV (23 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Listahan sa namatay, missing sa Carmen pit gipagawas".  WBS and PR (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Carmen Copper Corp. commits to help landslide victims' families".  Toledo City Public Information Office Facebook Page (8 Feb. 2021). "Families of the victims of the land in Biga Pit Gitagaan ug ayuda in Toledo".  Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Facebook Page (31 Jan. 2021). "Hundreds of Toledo City, Cebu residents affected by a copper mine landslide receive assistance from Senator Bong Go".  Sabalo, Wenilyn (30 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Biga chief claims please ignored before landslide". Retrieved from - https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1881418/Cebu/Local-News/Biga-chief-claims-pleas-ignored-before-landslide  Suralta, Renester P. (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Tell it to SunStar: Toledo tragedy: The untold story". Retrieved from - https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1881194
Marcelle P. Villegas - January 29, 2021
Rare blue agate from Brazil with the face of Cookie Monster
A rare piece of volcanic agate rock was discovered in the Rio Grande do Sul region near Soledade in Brazil last November 2020. It is an oval-shaped rock with a hard, white pitted outer shell. On the outside, it looks like a perfect egg. When you split the rock at the center, you will see in each of the two halves a strange resemblance of Cookie Monster, a character from the famous children’s television show “Sesame Street”. At first look, the rock’s photos and video which went viral on the internet seems surreal, but it is actually a unique piece of rock that was naturally formed in a volcanic environment, according to its owner. The rock is a deep blue quartz crystal and was discovered and found by Lucas Fassari, a gemologist and explorer in Brazil.  It was sent to Mike Bowers in California. Bowers is an American geologist and specializes in these types of rocks. He said that it could be worth as much as $10,000 due to its rare features.  Bowers uploaded on his personal social media account a video of the rock with the caption “Cookie Monster agate from Brazil” with a background music of Cookie Monster singing about the letter “C”. His post immediately became viral online. The actual cost of the rock when bought from Fassari was not revealed by the current seller.  “I think this is probably the most perfect Cookie Monster out there. I have seen others but here you have it complete on both sides. This is very unusual. There are a few famous agates out there: the owl, the scared face. There are many approximate ones but it is rare to find one so well defined like this,” Bowers said. “Prices can be very high. I was proposed over $10,000 by five different buyers. Rare.” While his viral video of the Cookie Monster agate is fascinating, it also brought some doubt to most people. Is it really possible for nature to produce a semiprecious stone with such strange appearance? What are agates and how are they formed in the first place? Geology.com described the agate as a translucent variety of microcrystalline quartz. It is formed by the deposition of silica from groundwater in the cavities of igneous rocks. Agates are formed by the deposits of silica from groundwater in the cavities of igneous rocks. The agate deposits in concentric layers around the walls of the cavity or in the horizontal layers building up from the bottom of the cavity. As a result, layered patters are then formed. In some agate formations, these cavities are lined with crystals, therefore called geodes. A geode is a round rock with a hollow space lined with crystals, just like the Cookie Monster agate. Agates come in a wide range of colours such as brown, red, yellow, gray, black, pink and white. The colours are produced by the impurities during its formation and they are formed in alternating layers within the agate. Now, the variations in colours are produced once groundwater of different compositions leak into the cavity. The banding within a cavity is a manifestation of change in water chemistry. As an end result, agates end up having interesting colours and patterns. Based on this general description of agate, the authenticity of the Cookie Monster agate seems legitimate. Bowers reported to Daily Mail UK that the rock is indeed real.  A fact-checking website, Snopes.com. also claimed that rock is authentic.  TechnologyTimes.pk on the other hand stated, “As of the moment, there are no news yet as to whether Bowers actually intends to sell the rock or not, and about its current value as of the moment. Furthermore, no authorities have confirmed whether the rock is real or fake. If it is, sure enough, its value will increase over time as more and more people take interest in the unusual rock. Who would’ve known Cookie Monster would make so much numbers in a rock?” (--Marcelle P. Villegas, PRJ) Reference:  Boyle, Darren (19 Jan. 2021). Daily Mail UK. "What a muppet! Geologist finds incredibly rare lump of volcanic agate rock which looks exactly like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster". Retrieved from - https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9162441/What-muppet-Geologist-finds-rock-looks-like-Sesame-Streets-Cookie-Monster.html  Hart, Matthew (26 Jan. 2021). Nerdist. "Gemologist Cracks Open Rock, Finds Cookie Monster's Face".  Evon, Dan (26 Jan. 2021). Snopes. "Is the 'Cookie Monster Rock' Real?".  Noor, Mufliha (25 Jan. 2021). Technology Times.pk. "'Cookie Monster' Rock From Brazil: Real or Fake?".
Marcelle P. Villegas - December 24, 2020
Carmen Copper Corp. suspends all mining operations due to recent landslide
21 Dec. 2020 – Landslide at Carmen pit -- A screenshot from the video sent to SunStar Cebu Amid the holiday festivities in Toledo City in Cebu, a sudden tragedy happened last Monday afternoon in a mining pit in Barangay Biga. 21 Dec. 2020, Monday -- Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC) said that the landslide happened at around 4:15 pm at the Carmen Pit. The day after, it was reported that 4 employees died while 6 are still missing. Several miners were also rushed to the Carmen Copper Hospital following the landslide.  From a public statement released by CCC, they said: “The incident was traceable to the incessant rains for the past several months and aggravated by Typhoon Vicky which hit parts of the Visayas, including Toledo City last Friday, December 18, 2020.” “The Management of CCC is doing all the necessary action to assess and address the overall situation. We will continue to inform the concerned agencies as well the general public of further developments.” CCC suspended all mining operations in the area to ensure the safety of its employees and contractors.  “We humbly ask the general public to exercise caution and responsibility in distributing information out of respect to the affected families. We would like to extend our utmost gratitude to private groups and the Toledo City Government Emergency Response team for extending valuable assistance in our search and rescue operations.” “We are also in close coordination and communication with concerned government agencies as we continue to conduct all necessary actions to assess and address the situation.”  22 Dec. 2020, Toledo City, Cebu – Search and Rescue Operation at Carmen Copper Corp. -- Establishment of Incident Command Post with Carmen Copper Corporation and Mayor Marjorie “Joie” Piczon-Perales (Photo credit: Chile Perolino, Toledo City Public Information Office FB page) The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said last Tuesday that they will do an investigation on the landslide incident. The mining operation is temporarily suspended pending the result of the investigation, according to MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano. He emphasised that the Toledo copper mine passed the Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s independent audit for 2020.  CCC is a subsidiary of Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation (or “Atlas Mining”). They have an operating agreement with Atlas Mining and has exclusive operating rights over the in situ mineral resources and ore reserves of Carmen, Lutopan and Biga mineral deposits. These are collectively known as Toledo copper mine which covers 1,674 hectares. Currently, 276 hectares out of the total operating area is an active mining site. The Atlas Copper Complex is located in Don Andres Soriano (Lutopan), Toledo City, in the province of Cebu which is 365 miles or 570 km south of Metro Manila.  Moncano said via a text message to reporters, “Initial findings indicate that Typhoon Vicky exacerbated the already waterlogged limestone and mudstone layer from the prior typhoon that weakens its contact with the intrusive rock base. This is the material that went down to the pit bottom. A fault line called the Barot fault was also observed in the slide area and may have contributed to the landslide.”  Rocky Dimaculangan, Vice President for Communications and National Coordinator for Towards Sustainable Mining sent this message to the media, “The important thing is for the industry to learn lessons from incidents such as this to continue to improve on its protocols and practices. Undoubtedly the industry as a whole will absorb the lessons from this incident.” Last 4th of Dec. 2020, Dimaculangan was a speaker at the Philippine Mining Club Webinar on “Towards Sustainable Mining: Beyond Compliance”. As for the host communities where the mine site is located, they have their own issues against the mining operations of CCC. According to Biga Barangay Captain Pedro Sepada, CCC’s mining activities were the subject of complaints filed by its host barangay since 2019. Their complaints were forwarded to MGB Central Visayas (MGB-7). Sepada stated in a phone interview by Rappler, “During our consultative meetings, we really asked what exactly was the standard distance between the mining operations area and the residential area. MGB said there is no standard distance.”  Sepada also said that this was not the first time an incident had occurred. He said that the mining pit had collapsed in 2013, which claimed the life of his relative.  In response to the recent tragedy, Toledo City government’s emergency response team extended their assistance in the ongoing search and rescue operation. Toledo City Mayor Marjorie “Joie” Piczon-Perales is also coordinating with CCC.  According to Toledo City Information Officer, John Layan, Toledo City will be providing financial assistance to the families of the victims. “As per information from our mayor, our assistance is now in place. We are just finalizing some documentary requirements.”  Layan also stated that the other than the City Government’s logistical support to CCC for the search and rescue operation, Mayor Perales requested the help of Philippine Coast Guard for divers and boats for the search and rescue operation.  – (Marcelle P. Villegas, PRJ) Reference:  Mayuga, Jonathan L. (23 Dec. 2020). Business Mirror. "Carmen Coper halts mine operations". Retrieved from - https://businessmirror.com.ph/2020/12/23/carmen-copper-halts-mine-operations/  Press release from Carmen Copper Corp. (22 Dec. 2020)  Carmen Copper Corp. company website - https://www.atlasmining.com.ph/about-us/carmen-copper-corporation  Sitchon, John (22 Dec. 2020). Rappler. "At least 4 dead, 6 missing after collapse of Cebu mine". Retrieved from - https://www.rappler.com/nation/death-toll-collapse-toledo-cebu-mining-pit-december-22-2020  MVG, WBS, JOB (22 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Carmen Copper mine landslide death toll now at 4". Retrieved from - https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1880861/Cebu/Local-News/Carmen-Copper-mine-landslide-death-toll-now-at-4
Marcelle P. Villegas - December 01, 2020
Nickel in Plants and the Potential of Phytomining – Part Two
By Marcelle P. Villegas Rare plants that naturally accumulate large quantities of nickel are believed to be hiding in Indonesia’s forests. (Photo credit: Dr. Antony van der Ent, University of Queensland) Previously, on Part One of our featured story, we shared the findings of a group in Indonesia that studied rare plants that absorb high concentration of nickel. The group published their study in May 2020 where they identified the species of rare, nickel-loving “super plants” in Sulawesi. What is the significance of their study in nickel mining? Is phytomining a viable method of nickel mining? For the past years, Dr Antony van der Ent and his colleagues researched about phytomining of nickel hyper-accumulator plants. These are “super plants” that can accumulate at least 1000 micrograms of nickel per 1g of dried leaf. In nature, most plants need a little bit of heavy metals to activate some essential enzymes in their flower process. However, too much of these metals can kill most plants. Therefore, most hyper-accumulator plants are rare due to their ability to survive despite absorbing high amounts of metals. Nickel is stored in their shoots, leaves, roots and sap. “If the nickel within these rare plants could be tapped, it would provide a sustainable source of nickel for use in electric vehicle batteries,” said, Dr van der Ent. Dr van der Ent is a plant ecophysiologist and biogeochemist from University of Queensland who does research on biopathyways of trace elements in soil and plant systems. “I have a specific interest in the application of phytotechnologies that utilize hyperaccumulator plants. My research bridges systematics, ecology and physiology of plants and is highly collaborative in nature.”  Indonesia is a good place to look for plants that are nickel hyper-accumulators. Their forests are rich in biodiversity and the soil is rich in nickel. (Photo credit: Dr. Antony van der Ent) In 2004, Aiyen Tjoa from Tadulako University in Central Sulawesi searched for these plants in Sorowako. Sorowako is known for its rich biodiversity of rare plants but the area was cleared of its green landscape to make way for one of the largest nickel mining sites in the world. There were, however, some bushes and trees that survived the clearing of the forest. She studied these plants to understand how “super plants” are able to withstand such harsh nickel-rich soil, while it is toxic for other organisms. She notes that if these plants can be “mined” as well, then this could be a new method of gathering nickel without destroying the ecosystem. Tjoa found two species of nickel hyper-accumulators in 2008. These are Sarcotheca celebica and Knema matanensis which could store between 1,000 and 5,000 micrograms of nickel per 1g of dried leaf. “We’re looking for plants that could accumulate at least 10,000 micrograms [per gram]. At that threshold, it becomes economically viable to cultivate the plant for mineral extraction – or ‘phytomining’”. Dr. van der Ent established two methods in detecting hyper-accumulator plants. First is through the use of detection paper. He reported that if a plant has nickel content, the white detection paper turns pink when leaves are pressed against it.  Another detection method he uses is via a hand-held device that emits x-ray beams at the plant sample. Plants that are positive for nickel content reacts by emitting a specific amount of energy that is characteristic of nickel atoms.  A third technique is by using magnetism, as developed by researcher Professor Satria Bijaksana from Bandung Institute of Technology. This technique is faster and saved time because it only detects high concentrations of nickel. Using this method, Tjoa and Dr. van der Ent were able to conduct a successful experiment on 10 indigenous plants in Sulawesi and Halmahera in comparison with two hyper-accumulators (Alyssum murale and Alyssum corsicum). Findings show one of the native plants was high in both iron and nickel. The group published their study in May 2020 where they identified two further species of nickel-loving plants in Sulawesi. Of note, they discovered that the plant species Casearia halmaherensis and another that was a type of pepper, have the ability to accumulate 2,600-2,900 micrograms in 1g of dried leaf. Is phytomining a new way to mine? “The beauty of nickel hyper-accumulators is that they collect something that is both a toxic pollutant if left in the soil, and a valuable material – nickel is used in making products from kitchen taps to electric car batteries. Collecting the nickel from plants is a relatively easy process,” writes science journalist, Dyna Rochmyaningsih, who published the article “The rare plants that ‘bleed’ nickel”, for “Future Planet” of the BBC website.  Among the various “super plants” that the three researchers found, Dr van der Ent has calculated that the plant species Phyllantus balgoyii can produce an estimate of 120kg of nickel per hectare every year. That is equivalent to a market value of around $1,754 per hectare.  How is nickel extracted from the plant? The shoots will be pruned, and then burned. Nickel can be separated from the ash. The shoots of a plant have the highest concentrations of nickel. Burning is necessary to release carbon dioxide. According to Rochmyaningsih’s report, phytomining has considerable environmental advantages compared with traditional forms of mining. “In Sorowako, nickel is extracted through open-pit mining, to access nickel embedded inside laterite rocks. To get the nickel, the rocks need to be crushed, which can release radioactive elements, naturally occurring asbestos-like substances, and metallic dust. Open-pit mining also produces waste materials in the form of a toxic semi-liquid waste known as tailings. If not properly managed, arsenic and mercury-laden tailings can leak in the surrounding environment. More broadly, traditional mining as a whole is a considerable carbon emitter, releasing at least 10% of greenhouse emissions in 2017.”  Nickel hyper-accumulators are also a choice of plant type to use for revegetation of mined out land areas. Tjoa says that in most mining companies in Indonesia, they often use ordinary plants rather than nickel-loving species. Dr van der Ent said that nickel hyper-accumulators could do a better job in revegetation because they improve soil health by removing nickel and brining back the major nutrients needed by normal plants. It could also give an economic benefit for the mining company because the nickel residue that has been accumulated in the plant’s shoots could be harvested. Dr van der Ent has been conducting phytomining field trials in Sabah, Malaysia since 2014. “We found out that phytomining really works.” This can be applied in soils that have not been mined but have naturally have high levels of nickel. However, Dr van der Ent points out that the technology of phytomining is not aimed at replacing open-pit mining. Instead, phytomining could be done in parallel. He said that it can be an alternative form of agriculture in rural communities living on nickel-rich areas.  Although phytomining has a good potential and viability, Tjoa said that there is a slow pace of development of phytomining in Indonesia as no one seems to pay attention to this potential. “The firm PT Inco once supported her research on phytomining when she did a field trial on the adaptation of Alyssum murale in Sorowako. But the collaboration was terminated partly because the company was restructuring,” according to the BBC article. There was no collaboration since then.  The irony is, “No other country has a greater potential for phytomining than Indonesia,” said Dr van der Ent. With the extraordinary plant diversity and geological history, he believes that the Indonesia has a great potential for the discovery of nickel hyper-accumulators. Between 1990 and 2018, Sulawesi lost nearly 19% of its forest cover. Tjoa said, “We have lost such a big chance to find these plants.” On the bright side of the story, in central Sulawesi, “a pristine rainforest sits on nickel-rich soils that make up the mountainous region in Morowali natural reserve.” The soil is greyish and forms above a bedrock called serpentinite. Most likely, it is a perfect place to find nickel-loving plants. Also, a foreign mining company showed their interest in phytomining studies and experiment, according to Tjoa. She was in touch with a US-based investor in 2017 who wanted to fund her 5,000-hectare trial in Sulawesi. She plans to use Alyssum murale for the project. This is a nickel-hyperaccumulator from Italy. She said that maybe if we can prove that phytomining works, then perhaps the Indonesian government will finally be convinced about it. From their study, we find that using plants instead of heavy machinery to mine would create less waste, preserve the ecosystem and produce less toxic waste. References:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Antony_Ent  Rochmyaningsih, Dyna (26 August 2020). “The rare plants that ‘bleed’ nickel”. Future Planet, BBC. Retrieved from - https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200825-indonesia-the-plants-that-mine-poisonous-metals Photo credit: 1. Antony van der Ent - https://smi.uq.edu.au/profile/1400/antony-van-der-ent 2. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200825-indonesia-the-plants-that-mine-poisonous-metals
Jimbo Gulle - October 15, 2020
How mining can help PH recover from COVID-19
No business, no industry sector has been left unscathed by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, nearly a year since the COVID-19 disease was first detected in China -- and that includes mining. A recent report said that in the Philippines, as many as 138,000 jobs in the mining sector were lost during the pandemic, according to Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano. Despite that, Moncano revealed that his bureau is seeking the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte for a mining sector program, with specific recommendations on how the extractive industries could help the economy recover from the pandemic-triggered recession. What the MGB is proposing, he said, is for the Duterte administration to allow the potential of the mining industry to help the economy recover, as the bureau submitted its sector program to the Office of the President and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, its parent agency. Asked to provide a gist of the program, Moncano told the Manila Bulletin: “It will be premature to trumpet its content when it has not yet been seen by the addressee.” “Safe to say that the mining sector proposed and believes that the mining industry sector can help during these times that there is a serious drop in economic activity because of the pandemic,” he added, noting that the memo contains recommendations from the mining sector. By now, the benefits of responsible mining are no mystery to Filipinos, as the industry has faithfully trumpeted its positive effects to the economy over the years – and especially now that the country will need every bit of reinforcement to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Businessman and columnist Peter Wallace laid out these benefits in his recent article for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His point, at the end of his column, was: “Mining is one way to give Filipinos jobs and make some money for the government.” Wallace mentioned the following: “Large-scale mines employ lots of people. A responsible miner provides jobs for people who had none.” Of the jobs lost by the mining sector this year, MGB’s Moncano said this does not include the jobs lost from the small-scale mining industry. “Similar to other industries, the mining sector lost export production values, taxes not raised, employment losses, undelivered supplies, among others, for the three months that the mining companies were prevented from operating,” Moncano told the Bulletin. While they have been allowed to resume work now, mining companies “have to bear the strict health protocols issued by the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases],” he added. Meanwhile, Wallace said: “In 2015, an estimated 236,000 Filipinos were working in mines. This had dropped to 184,000 by 2019. I am sure the 7.3 million Filipinos unemployed as of April 2020 (a record high currently), including the estimated 4.9 million Filipinos laid off by COVID-19, would welcome getting a decent income again. And the major mining companies do pay well, as pointed out by MGB.” “While estimates vary, it is conservatively estimated that for every job in the industry, about four indirect jobs may be generated in the upstream and downstream sectors. As in tourism, there is a substantial multiplier effect. These jobs include the mining’s forest and environmental protection and rehabilitation activities that large mining firms undertake.” In economics, a multiplier effect is defined “as a phenomenon whereby a given change in a particular input, such as government spending, causes a larger change in an output, such as gross domestic product.” Large-scale responsible mines bring wealth to rural communities “where it is most needed and develop those communities,” Wallace said. He noted that according to the MGB, the mining firms’ social development and management programs currently benefit more than 800 barangays (villages). “This is something we need during the pandemic, especially with the government needing to allocate funds to other poverty alleviation and public health services programs.” A responsible miner builds rural roads. “Yes, the company uses them, but so does the community. They are local roads they never had,” Wallace said. A responsible miner “provides scholarships for deserving students, often builds a school, and establishes a clinic for all,” he said. Mines pay considerable taxes and boost a country’s international reserves through exports. “With the loss of tourists and OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) income in decline (because they have been sent home from other COVID-afflicted countries), we need all the dollars we can get,” Wallace said. “In 2016, these companies paid P22.6 billion in taxes, fees, and royalties. In 2017, the excise tax was doubled to 4 percent of gross sales, so in 2018 the total government take increased to P31.3 billion,” he added. This can go up much more “if policy restrictions are removed,” Wallace noted. “Just three pending projects, if approved, can increase total government take by P13 billion per year and add P1.3 billion annually in social expenditures. That is money not to be sneezed at for an economy that is going to desperately need more funds to finance its anti-COVID-19 measures and social protection programs.” According to MGB’s Moncano, the estimated export revenue lost during the lockdown period so far was P14.1 billion. This is money that could have gone to funding for coronavirus vaccines, quarantine centers, face masks, shields and other personal protective equipment (PPEs), disinfectants and other tools used to fight the pandemic – many sectors, not just mining, have noted. Now if the country was able to fully tap into its mineral deposits -- worth an estimated US$1.4 trillion (Php.67.74 trillion), making the Philippines the fifth-most mineral-rich country in the world – the government and the people would have a lot more resources to use for its pandemic response. Wallace noted that because of slower annual growth, mining’s contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) has slid from nearly 0.8 percent in 2016 to 0.5 percent in 2019. “Its share would have grown steadily had mining been supported,” he said. Sadly, the columnist’s words are an old refrain. Seven years ago, renowned economist Bernardo Villegas said there is more to mining “than just tax revenues and export earnings.” As founder and director of the Center for Research and Communication and member of the University of Asia and Pacific, Villegas headed a study of all the country’s major industrial sectors, and it shows that the mining industry “makes a significant contribution, not just to the Philippine economy but also to the common good.” “The common good is not just the taxes paid by mining firms but employment generation, nurturing of small and medium scale industries through the multiplier effect, and the stimulation of consumption in the communities where various establishments, whatever they are, are located,” he said in a 2013 forum sponsored by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines. Today, with the raging coronavirus disease collapsing big and small economies alike, it is obvious the Philippines needs a lot of common good – and, Inquirer’s Wallace notes, it would only take about 3 percent of Philippine land to be mined “if ALL potential mines were exploited. And it would never be ALL.” “All of this is conditioned on mining being responsibly done. This is the key and is critical, and recent rules enforce this,” he said. Thus, mining just might be the boon the Philippines needs to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – if only the government would try.
Marcelle P. Villegas - September 24, 2020
Nickel In Plants and the Potential of Phytomining
“If the nickel within these rare plants could be tapped, it would provide a sustainable source of nickel for use in electric vehicle batteries.” (Credit: Antony van der Ent) By Marcelle P. Villegas Science journalist, Dyna Rochmyaningsih, recently wrote a feature about three scientists who published their research about the existence of rare plants in Indonesia that “bleeds nickel”. Rochmyaningsih is a freelance journalist based in Deliserdang, North Sumatra. In her article “The rare plants that ‘bleed’ nickel”, published on “Future Planet” on BBC website, her introduction goes, “Rare and valuable plants that naturally ‘mine’ large quantities of nickel are thought to be hiding in Indonesia’s forests – but it is a race to discover them before they are wiped out.”  While it is natural for certain plants to absorb some elements present in soil, this particular science report is noteworthy because it explores the existence of “super plants”, which are yet to be discovered. A related study in the Philippines was reported a few years ago. A team of environmental scientists headed by Assistant Professor Rene Claveria of Ateneo De Manila University reported that a native fern Pteris melanocaulon has the ability to grow in soil despite high concentrations of metals. Thus, the plan is classified as a metallophyte. From their study in a copper-gold mining area, they discovered that the fern was able to accumulate copper and high levels of arsenic. Their discovery is a breakthrough and useful in helping the mining industry and the local government in the removal or prevention of soil contamination, making areas near and within mine sites suitable for other plants to grow. The study can also help prevent toxic elements from causing health problems to those living nearby. Their findings were published in international scientific journals such as International Journal of Phytoremediation in 2015 and Chemosphere in July 2019.  Similarly in Indonesia, a team of researchers discovered some plants that can absorb high concentrations of nickel from soil. In 2004, a soil biologist and lecturer in Tadulako University in Central Sulawesi named Aiyen Tjoa visited Sorowako. Sorowako used to have a rich biodiversity of rare plants before it became the location of one of the largest nickel mining sites in the world. However, by 2004 the area was cleared for mining and much of the green vegetation became barren soil and dusty roads . There were some bushes and trees that survived the mining transformation. With that Tjoa was inspired to search and study those rare plants that adapted well in the nickel-rich environment. She noted that these could be “super plants” that have the ability to absorb high levels of nickel from the soil. If these plants can be “mined” as well, then this could be a new method of gathering nickel without destroying the ecosystem. These plants are known as nickel hyper-accumulators and are rare plants that can accumulate at least 1000 micrograms of nickel per 1g of dried leaf. Although most plants need a little bit of heavy metals to activate some essential enzymes in their flower process, too much of these metals can kill most plants. Plants that are classified as hyper-accumulators are unusual and rare due to their ability to survive despite absorbing high amounts of metals. They store nickel in their shoots, leaves, roots and sap. In Rochmyaningsih’s article in BBC, she noted, “Curiously, very few of these plants have been found in Indonesia, which is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and also has the largest nickel deposit in the world – just where you might expect to find a nickel hyper-accumulator. Tjoa says that this is largely because very few people have spent the time looking.” Finding these plants is difficult, according to Tjoa based on her experience in searching, where she funded her own explorations. She recounts that the process can be slow and frustrating. Antony van der Ent also did studies and research about nickel hyper-accumulators. He is a plant ecophysiologist from the University of Queensland. He uses a white circle of detection paper to test for nickel. “The paper instantly turns pink when leaves are pressed against it. It’s foolproof, easy to do and fast,” he says.  However, not all plants with nickel are hyper-accumulators. Further analysis is done to determine the level of nickel concentration a plant can tolerate. One technique is by using a hand-held device that shoots an X-ray beam at the sample, which reacts by emitting a specific amount of energy that is characteristic of nickel atoms.  After four years of exploration, Tjoa eventually found two species of indigenous nickel hyper-accumulators in 2008, namely: Sarcotheca celebica and Knema matanensis which could store between 1,000 and 5,000 micrograms of nickel per 1g of dried leaf. What is special about these two species is that they have shown fairly modest powers of hyperaccumulation. “We’re looking for plants that could accumulate at least 10,000 micrograms [per gram]. At that threshold, it becomes economically viable to cultivate the plant for mineral extraction – or ‘phytomining’”. Another researcher, Satria Bijaksana, a professor of rock magnetism from Bandung Institute of Technology, used magnetism as a technique that could speed up the search for these hyper-accumulator plants. He was able to connect that since most hyper-accumulator plants have high amounts of metals that are magnetic, then using magnetism in detecting hyper-accumulators might help Tjoa’s and van der Ent’s research. With this new technique, they were able to conduct a successful experiment on 10 indigenous plants in Sulawesi and Halmahera in comparison with two hyper-accumulators (Alyssum murale and Alyssum corsicum). Findings show one of the native plants was high in both iron and nickel. “No other country has a greater potential for phytomining than Indonesia,” said van der Ent. “We think using magnetism could speed up the process because it only detects high concentrations of nickel,” says Bijaksana. He also said that using this technique results in fewer false positives. The group published their study in May 2020 where they identified two further species of nickel-loving plants in Sulawesi. The species Casearia halmaherensis and another that was a type of pepper, have the ability to accumulate 2,600-2,900 micrograms in 1g of dried leaf. “While the research is still preliminary, Bijaksana hopes it could convince people to take phytomining seriously in Indonesia.”  ----- Reference:  Rochmyaningsih, Dyna (26 August 2020). “The rare plants that ‘bleed’ nickel”. Future Planet, BBC. Retrieved from - https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200825-indonesia-the-plants-that-mine-poisonous-metals  https://www.ateneo.edu/ls/sose/environmental-science/news/features/ateneo-led-research-team-discovers-fern-absorbs-arsenic
Marcelle P. Villegas - September 24, 2020
The Tandem between Mining and Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles and battery manufacturers - Exhibitors at the 7th Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit - July 2019, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal) By Marcelle P. Villegas While most environmentalists believe that mining is bad for the environment, they somehow encourage or even demand from car manufacturers to resort to eco-friendly technologies. Thus, the emergence of electric vehicles (EV) enters the picture as the solution. EVs have less carbon emissions and use greener fuels, therefore, this will help improve the air quality on the planet. But with this trend in transportation technology, manufacturers will now require a large and steady supply of specific elements. How to acquire these elements now goes back to mining. Last July, Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Inc. emphasised the importance of nickel and its rising demand. The American electric vehicle and clean energy company, Tesla Inc. ranked as the world’s best-selling plug-in and battery electric passenger car manufacturer in 2019.  Musk encourages mining companies to produce more nickel since it is the key ingredient in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles. He mentioned that the current cost of EV batteries remained a big hurdle to the company’s growth.  He stated, “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.” Nickel in batteries provides much energy for an EV on a single charge. Tesla Inc. now has a rising demand for nickel in order to boost the production of trucks and solar projects.  Here in the Philippines, we have the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), thus more electric cars are now plying on the streets of Metro Manila. PUVMP is a flagship program of the Duterte administration which envisions restructured, modern, well-managed, and environmentally sustainable transport sector, ensuring drivers and operators have stable, sufficient and dignified livelihoods while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably.  Aside from nickel, there are other elements like iron, cobalt, copper, and more that are essential in the production of EVs and their batteries. Because of mining, manufacturing of EVs and their efficient batteries is possible. Here are some facts about the elements that are needed in EVs.  Electric car batteries require 15 kilograms of cobalt. Lithium is used to create rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power electric and hybrid vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries used by many of the major electric vehicles manufacturers use a cathode that is primarily composed of nickel. Iron is used to make the protective bodies of electric vehicles. Molybdenum is an essential component of airbags. Electric cars use twice as much copper as internal combustion engines. The development of green technologies and the manufacturing of EVs and batteries are all dependent on mining. In order to successfully protect the environment in the long run, proper management of mineral resources, eco-friendly strategies and responsible mining are needed. ----- Reference:  Pontes, Jose (Feb. 4, 2020). “EV Sales: 2019 sales by OEM”. EV Sales.  Sun, Yilei and Burton, Melanie (July 23, 2020). Reuters. “‘Please mine more nickel,' Musk urges as Tesla boosts production”. Retrieved from - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-nickel-idUSKCN24O0RV  “The Anatomy of an Electric Car: All Thanks to Mining” (September 2019). Mining Philippines Programme Report. Retrieved from - https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insignts/research/nickel-supply-energized-by-electric-vehicles
Marcelle P. Villegas - September 24, 2020
Joe Green on helping mining companies through The Bamboo Initiative
2019 Manila FAME at World Trade Center - (Top photo) Joseph Castillo (a.k.a. Joe Green) with the author. (Lower photo) Joseph Castillo (second from left) with his teammates in The Bamboo Initiative -- Jose Camus, Stephen Araneta and Aisa dela Cruz of OLLI, Larissa Alivio of Bamboo Initiative, and more. (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal) By Marcelle P. Villegas From bamboo charcoal to raw material for antibacterial fabric, environmental advocate Joe Green shares the unique and fascinating ways the bamboo plant helps mining companies and local communities. Plus with bamboo around, the cutting of trees will be lessened. During the formal launching of The Bamboo Initiative last year at the Manila FAME, it was stated that “The Bamboo Initiative is a nationwide campaign aimed at revegetating mined-out areas with fast-growing bamboo, thereby increasing bamboo production and creating lucrative enterprises for mining communities.”  The Bamboo Initiative was inspired and co-established by OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. under its CSR component “OLLI Cares” led by their President and Principal, Atty Leo Dominquez. The initiative is supported by and is a collaboration among the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and its Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council, and the Department of Agriculture. So how does The Bamboo Initiative directly help mining companies? We interviewed Mr Joseph Castillo of OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. to elaborate on the various strategies of The Bamboo Initiative in promoting ecological and industrial use of bamboo for mining companies. Mr Joseph Castillo is from Davao City. “People call me ‘Joe Green’ because I have other green initiatives like about plastic pollution and this bamboo campaign. The Bamboo Initiative has identified a need for the supply of bamboo planting material. In this regard, I now manage a bamboo nursery that is helping to supply the needs of the mining industry for bamboo seedlings and propagules ” he stated. Primarily, they help mining companies in planting bamboo, because most mining companies need guidance on which bamboo varieties will successfully grow in their mine site. Each mine site has a unique soil composition and soil condition after mining. The Forest Management Bureau noted that the Philippines has over 70 bamboo species where eight species are highly useful commercially. They have the local names Kauayan Tinik, Kiling, Bayog, Laak, Giant Bamboo, Bolo, Kayali and Buho.  Joe mentioned, “I am focused on growing the seedlings and the bamboo propagules so we have a facility in Baracatan, Davao. There we grow the seedlings and sell them to mining companies who then use them to re-forest their mined-out areas, especially in the nickel mining industry.” “Right now, we are supplying for the nickel mining company, CTP Construction and Mining Corporation, headed by Mr Carlo Pimentel. We are partnering with them now and supplying them 35,000 seedlings to start with. We just started so we are in the process of delivering the first few thousands to them and we're helping them plant also.” “Before this project even started, we did our own research together. So we studied and introduced them to people who know better about bamboo. Right now they [CTP] have enough knowledge on how to grow the bamboo successfully in their mining area. CTP is a very progressive company. They listen and they are very open to new things especially with bamboo.” Mr Joe explained why they recommend planting bamboo instead of trees. “It is common that mining companies plant trees on the land area they have finished mining on. Planting trees is still environmentally sound but after you're gone, what will the people do with the trees? If the trees planted are not fruit-bearing, most likely the people in the area will just cut them eventually.” Mr Joe added, “There is no industry around it, and with no livelihood in place, thus they will just cut the trees.” “On the other hand, with bamboo planted in the area, there are so many industries behind it that people can benefit from even after the mining company has left the area.” “Firstly, bamboo itself can create crafts. Secondly, the bamboo fruits are edible. Thirdly, bamboo has many uses that we are also concentrating on, like the ‘bamboo uling’ or charcoal.” He explained that by having bamboo charcoal around, people will cut less trees that they normally use for firewood. “Therefore, it is very sustainable. The manufacturing of bamboo charcoal is an industry in itself.” He also mentioned that in terms of carbon sequestration in the atmosphere, the bamboo can clean the air four times more than regular trees. Generally, both mining companies and the community around the mine site will benefit from bamboo. “Bamboo has a lifespan of 80 to 100 years, but it depends on the mother plant where it came from and it also depends on the species.” I asked Mr Joe about his views on the bamboo’s growing popularity in the manufacturing of anti-aging cosmetics. “Yes, they are now being used in anti-aging beauty products because bamboo has a high level of silica. Silica is used in many ways in the cosmetic industry as well as in the medical industry, plus food supplement and vitamins industry.” “As I know, other than for cosmetics and medical use, bamboo is also used to make fertilizer and even beer.” In terms of time-saving choice for reforestation and revegetation, Mr Joe mentioned that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. How fast does one small propagule grow to become useful or before it can be harvested? Mr Joe answered, “It depends on the species but by rule of thumb, we wait 2 to 3 years before we can harvest it. But if you say will it grow in a year’s time? Yes, it will grow very tall within a year.” The bamboo is known to be resistant to strong winds and typhoons due to its ability to sway with the wind. Mr Joe mentioned that its unique root system adds to this survival factor. “The roots of the bamboo are very deep and are scattered. It anchors itself really well on the soil, like most grass species, so it sways with the wind. The bamboo’s stalk is also bendable and flexible, thus it doesn’t break easily during a typhoon.” “You would hear Confucius quotes and other Asian quotes that are ancient that talk about the bamboo’s flexibility and resilience, and comparing it in real life.” In one ancient Chinese proverb, Confucius said, "Be like the bamboo, the higher you grow the deeper you bow." Furthermore in our discussion, Mr Joe mentioned the bamboo’s antibacterial qualities. “I know some bamboo species have antibacterial properties. I have two mentors who are well-versed with bamboo, Coach Rey Millian from Davao and Father Vic Labao of Cebu. They're the ones who told me the species that has a high antibacterial property is locally called bagakay which is endemic in the Philippines.” “As I know, there are local underwear brands that are tagged as odor-proof because it has antibacterial fabric. They used bamboo cloth for it.” He is referring to the bamboo genus Schizostachyum lumampao, locally known as buho or bagakay. According to “Useful Tropical Plants” website, bagakay is known for its slim and lightweight bamboo pole that can grow up to an average of 12.50 meters high. This variety is an evergreen bamboo that forms dense clumps of culms as long as 10 meters to 15 meters tall from short, woody rhizomes, with internodes measuring 25 cm to 50 cm in length. The bagakay is one of the economically important bamboos in the Philippines providing material for a wide range of uses. It grows in the wild with the wind as its main pollinator.  On a final note, Mr Joe and his team in The Bamboo Initiative helps out mining companies by providing advice and hands-on support on how to successfully plant and grow bamboo in the mined-out land area . “How do we help them in the mine sites? We find out the soil composition in the area, especially for nickel mines. Some of the nutrients in the soil might be depleted due to mining. Thus we choose and recommend the right bamboo species that are drought resistant or species that are good with lime, for example. It depends on the condition of the soil in the area to be rehabilitated. We conduct studies in order to provide the best advice in choosing the right bamboo variety.” For more information about The Bamboo Initiative, please contact Ms Maria Paula Tolentino at firstname.lastname@example.org. ----- Reference  Tolentino, Maria Paula (17 October 2019). "Mining industry launches bamboo development campaign at Manila FAME". The Bamboo Initiative press release for Manila FAME 2019.  Tolentino, Maria Paula (27 April 2019). SEM Scribe Publishing House. "OLLI Cares Spearheads The Bamboo Initiative". Retrieved from - https://semscribepublishing.com/  “Useful Tropical Plants”. Retrieved from - Schizostachyum lumampao, http://tropical.theferns.info/)
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Marcelle P. Villegas - September 24, 2020
Discovering the World’s Largest Caldera: An Interview with Geophysicist Jenny Anne Barretto - Part 1
By Marcelle P. Villegas The Apolaki Caldera is currently considered as the world's largest caldera. It was discovered in Benham Rise by marine geophysicist Jenny Anne Barretto and her team. Last June 5, 2020, an online talk show and forum in New Zealand titled "NetKapihan" had Ms Barretto as their special guest for their Philippine Independence Day special episode. The show's host and producer, Mr Rene "Nonoy" Molina also invited Marcelle Villegas, journalist of Philippine Resources Journal, as panelist for this live broadcast. Here is an exclusive interview with Ms Barretto and how she and her team came about with the discovery of the Apolaki Caldera during one of their expeditions. The fascinating discovery of the world's largest caldera in Benham Rise made headlines last year in October. Ms Jenny Anne Barretto is a Filipina geologist and marine geophysicist who works in GNS Science in New Zealand. She is a graduate of MSc Geology from the National Institute of Geological Sciences - University of the Philippines where she was also an instructor 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. She 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 published a paper in Marine Geology Journal where they reported the discovery of the largest caldera in the world. They named this the Apolaki Caldera, a tribute to the "god of sun and war" in Philippine mythology. (The Filipino word "Apolaki" means "giant lord".) This caldera has a diameter of ~150 km, which is 90 km bigger than the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming, U.S.A. Ms Barretto’s paper, "Benham Rise unveiled: Morphology and structure of an Eocene large igneous province in the West Philippine Basin" provides the details of the morphology and formation of the underwater feature of the Apolaki Caldera. The paper is co-authored by her colleagues Mr Ray Wood and Dr John Milsom. There are many notable Filipino achievers around the world and it is often customary in most events among overseas Filipino communities to honour them during Philippine Independence day every June 12 of the year. For this reason, Ms Barretto was featured as a special guest in New Zealand’s "NetKapihan" last June. "NetKapihan" is an online talk show, forum and panel discussion that features the Filipino community in New Zealand. The show’s founder and producer is Mr Rene "Nonoy" Molina, a Filipino-Kiwi digital storyteller and filmmaker who is based in New Zealand. Mr Molina stated, “It was one of the most memorable Philippine Independence Day celebrations I’ve ever had -- a tribute by NetKapihan to our 'Araw ng Kalayaan' via an exclusive info session with Filipino-Kiwi scientist Jenny Anne Barretto who was part of the team that discovered the Apolaki Caldera in Benham Rise! Many thanks too to Manila-based journalist and my former CSA-Makati student Marcelle Villegas for joining the info session. We are not a big organisation with limitless resources, neither are we a news-gathering company. We are a small, online talk show and we try our very best to be a trailblazer! That is our commitment with you! Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino!” Here is our interview with Ms Jenny Anne Barretto: PRJ: From the beginning, what inspired you to pursue a career in geology and marine geophysics? Ms Barretto: Like many children, I wanted to be an astronaut, dreaming of exploring and conducting experiments in space. I initially pursued a metallurgical engineering course in UP Diliman. But when I realized I didn’t like chemistry, I shifted to Geology which was quite popular in the university at that time because of the 1990 Luzon earthquake and 1991 Pinatubo eruption. Working as a student assistant with the Zambales Lahar Scientific Monitoring Group and with UP NISMED’s Science Teacher Training Center inspired my early Geology career of simultaneous research and teaching at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences. The journey in marine geology and geophysics started when I participated in a JAMSTEC-led marine survey in the Philippine Sea back in 2000. Then in 2008 I became part of the NAMRIA-led Technical Working Group that prepared the continental shelf submission for the Benham Rise and Reed Bank-KIG regions. Among my tasks were to put together the data and arguments relating to morphology and geophysics of the said regions, so the Philippines can extend its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. PRJ: Please share with us how you and your team came about with the discovery of the Apolaki Caldera in Benham Rise. Ms Barretto: 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. Then in 2014, I looked at the bathymetric data again and started describing the different features on Benham Rise in more detail. It was then that I noticed the caldera-like feature on the summit of the rise. But because of its enormous size (~150 km diameter) I was unsure. I showed the image to Ray Wood and he agreed that it looked like a caldera, but suggested to ask other scientists’ opinions, all of whom advised me to do more analyses before making any conclusion. 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. PRJ: How long did you research and investigate on the caldera before the actual discovery and verification of its presence? Ms Barretto: The research and writing the paper spanned 2014 - 2018. It took a while because it was not part of our jobs and we were working remotely from each other. I was in Lower Hutt, Ray was in Hawke’s Bay, and John was in Wales. Then there was the paper review process of the Marine Geology Journal. There were three reviewers, who although agreed that the feature looked like a caldera, asked us to make the presentation of evidence more robust. The paper was finally published in October 2019. PRJ: What are the possible mineral resources available in the area? Do you think our country may be able to extract or mine these minerals from that depth (>-2500m) with the mining technology we have available? Ms Barretto: 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). I believe the existing technology is for deep sea mining of seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits and not VMS deposits. SMS deposits are the modern equivalent of the ancient VMS deposits. Since rock samples from Benham Rise returned ages between 35 to 38 million years and there is no known active volcanism on the rise and vicinity, it is most unlikely to find active hydrothermal vents or chimneys which are targets for mining SMS deposits. PRJ: Is the existence of the large Apolaki Caldera still an interpretation of existing observations or may we assume it as a geological fact? Ms Barretto: 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. --- To be continued --- ----- Acknowledgement: Thank you, Ms Jenny Anne Barretto and GNS Science, for this interview and for sharing with us your studies and discovery. Thank you, Mr Rene Nonoy Molina of NetKapihan, for the opportunity to join the discussion with Ms Barretto. Thank you, Dr Friedrich-Karl Bandelow who is my technical adviser for this interview. Reference:  Retrieved from Jenny Barretto’s LinkedIn page  Yang, Angelica (22 October 2019). GMA News Online. "After Pinay marine geophysicist discovers world's largest caldera: What is a caldera and how does it form?". Retrieved from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/science/712584/after-pinay-marine-geophysicist-discovers-world-s-largest-caldera-what-is-a-caldera-and-how-does-it-form/story/ Photo credits  Benham Rise - by Google Earth and UP MSI Geological Oceanography Laboratory  NetKapihan Zoom session, June 5, 2020 - by Rene Nonoy Molina and Marcelle Villegas NetKapihan’s Facebook page is at http://www.netkapihan.com/
Marcelle P. Villegas - June 08, 2020
What the PH can Learn from Indonesia's Successful Nickel Industry - Part 2
By Marcelle P. Villegas Previously, we featured an update on the mining regulations in the Philippines. We also examined the export volumes of nickel ore from the Philippines and how these had been affected by Indonesia's exports. Lastly, we discussed the viability of the Philippines' laterite ore deposits and what this could mean for future production. These were the scope of a presentation by Mr George Bujtor last September at the 7th Asian Nickel Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. His report is titled “Philippines: Regulatory Update and the Potential of the Philippine Laterite Ore” - “How the Philippines was Surpassed by Indonesia in the Laterite Nickel Industry”. Mr Bujtor is the CEO and owner of private companies, namely Electric Metals Limited (EML) in Hong Kong and PT Electric Metals Indonesia. These are companies which are developing the innovative EML Process for the low-cost leaching of nickel laterite ores. The EML Process is the first of its kind in green technology in nickel processing, and he introduced this at the Asian Nickel Conference in Indonesia last September. Mr Bujtor is an expert in the technical, financial and commercial aspects of mining operations with over 35 years of experience in the industry. He has extensive work experience in the past as General Manager and Managing Director in Rio Tinto, Australia. In the Philippines is the former CEO of Toledo Mining Corporation and Berong Nickel Mine in Palawan, as well as CEO of Atlas Mining Corporation. As a review from Part I of our article, we learned from Mr Bujtor that the Philippines is currently Asia's leading supplier of nickel and cobalt which are raw materials for the battery sector. He stated that with the right policies, the Philippines could become one of the world's leading suppliers of battery raw materials, including battery manufacturing.  He said, "Both the Philippines and Indonesia have the resources to dominate the nickel industry. The future growth will be in stainless steel and the battery sector. " "Over the next 4 to 5 years, nickel demand growth will be in the stainless steel and battery sectors. Indonesia will continue to dominate the NPI growth and investment. The Philippines will only be able to compete in the battery sector." Now, what is the future of the Philippine laterite nickel ores? With regards to the competitiveness of Indonesia versus the Philippines, he mentioned that, "Relative to Indonesia, the Philippines has NO competitive advantage in ferro-nickel production." He gave the following key points: Indonesia has built, and continues to build, power stations to provide the electricity to its ferro-nickel industry. The Philippines has limited coal resources and a negative view of coal-fired power stations. With past high grading and sales of saprolite ores, little high-grade saprolite tonnage remains in the Philippines to produce low cost ferro-nickel/NPI. Indonesia has the advantage of having considerably higher saprolite ore grades and lesser environmental controls. These are key cost drivers. The future for the Philippines is not in ferro-nickel or NPI. He concluded, "The future of the Philippines lies in the processing of its laterite ores as battery raw materials…” Here is why: The Philippines is currently one of two producers of battery raw materials in Asia, through the Nickel Asia/Sumitomo JV. Sumitomo has the world’s leading technology for HPAL. The Philippines has large resources of laterite ores with medium to high Ni, Co & Sc grades. Hydrometallurgical processes like HPAL require very little electricity relative to ferro-nickel production. The Philippines leads the world in an innovative atmospheric leaching process adapted for the tropics – ‘The EML Process’ –a low cost atmospheric leaching process Green products for a green future As mentioned earlier, The EML Process is the first of its kind in green technology in nickel processing. "The low environmental impact either locally or globally of the EML process not only produces products green in colour (nickel), but green in nature to promote the ever-increasing demand for battery and related metals to combat the continued burning of fossil fuels and consequent global environmental pollution."  The EML Process was developed in the Philippines. It is an atmospheric leaching process (done at room temperatures and pressure) adapted to treat all laterite nickel ores. (The two methods of atmospheric leaching done by EML are vat leaching and tank leaching.) Here are some key points: Test work undertaken in the Philippines leveraging off Cu, Au, Li and Ni experience “Closed system” with leached ore placed back into mined-out areas –no emissions to land, air or water Lowest carbon footprint and environmentally the “greenest” of all Ni technologies Disruptive technology with lowest capital cost in the industry at Does not require a power station  "The EML Process is not only simple and safe but provides an environmental solution to the laterite nickel industry hitherto much maligned for its poor environmental rehabilitation performance, excess CO2 emissions and excess waste generated." “The principals behind Electric Metals Limited have developed an innovative leaching process to treat tropical nickel laterites, both saprolite and limonite ores. The process can also be applied to other ores of lithium, copper gold, uranium etc.” “The leach process has industry lowest capital costs and is environmentally far superior to the more complex and expensive technologies such as the High Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) and Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace (RKEF) processes.”  The three essential steps in the EML Process include: 1. Leaching of the laterite ore: Mined ore is contacted with dilute sulphuric acid to dissolve the nickel & cobalt (as well as other metals like aluminium, scandium, manganese, etc). 2. Metals Recovery: Solutions containing the metals of interest are treated to recover the contained nickel & cobalt initially, as a mixed hydroxide product containing 35% to 55% nickel and 1% to 3% cobalt. 3. Neutralization: Leached ore is washed and neutralised prior to being returned to the mined-out open pit. The leached ore residue is non-toxic and chemically inert and suitable for revegetation or agriculture. In summary, while the issue of nickel processing and environmental concerns may be a topic of debate among environmental activists and industrialists, the solution lies in having a gamechanger in the nickel processing arena. Today, we now have a low-cost and environment-friendly nickel processing method called The EML Process. This offers a promising future in the industry and for the environment as well. ----- Acknowledgement: Thank you to Mr George Bujtor of Electric Metals Limited. ----- Reference:  Bujtor, George. (11 Sept. 2019). “Philippines: Regulatory Update and the Potential of the Philippines Laterite Ore -- How the Philippines was Surpassed by Indonesia in the Laterite Nickel Industry”. Presented at Asian Nickel Conference 2019, Jakarta Indonesia  Retrieved from Electric Metals Limited website - https://electricmetalsltd.wordpress.com/  Bujtor, George and Wallwin Peter. (02 May 2020). “The EML Process”. Electric Metals Limited investor flyer. Photo credit: Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal
Marcelle P. Villegas - June 08, 2020
PH Mineral Reporting Code and Its Relevance to PH Minerals Industry
Atty. Dennis A. Quintero, PABC Chair - Presenting the Brief History of Philippine Mineral Reporting Code (PMRC) at the "Focus Group Discussion on the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code and Its Relevance to the Philippine Mineral Industry", Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila - 10 Sept. 2019 (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal) By Marcelle P. Villegas When the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines organised their annual Mining Philippines last year in September, one of the most important parts of their three-day international conference and exhibition took place on its first day at the Sulu Room of the Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila. It was a small gathering in a separate venue outside of the main conference -- the “Focus Group Discussion on the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code (PMRC) and Its Relevance to the Philippine Minerals Industry”. Although the discussion took place last September, the further development of the PMRC is something to look forward to this year and perhaps even the following year. The Philippine Mineral Reporting Code or the “Code” was created to set out minimum standards, recommendations and guidelines for Public Reporting in the Philippines of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves. “The Code was formulated with the intent of setting minimum standards for public reporting on minerals that is compatible with global standards. The formulation of the PMRC relied on the international codes from Australia, South Africa, European Union and Canada,” according to the Philippine-Australia Business Council (PABC). The closed-group discussion was moderated by Atty. Ronald S. Recidoro, COMP Executive Director. Atty. Dennis A. Quintero (PABC Chair and Meeting Chair) started the event with an “Introduction of Meeting Attendees and Brief History of PMRC”. "The idea of having a Philippine Mineral Reporting Code started during one of the mining roadshows in Australia, participated in by representatives from the Philippine-Australia Business Council. Back then, the Chairman was Atty. Leo Dominguez and the delegation was composed of the various mining industry stakeholders like the Chamber of Mines and also the Philippine Stock Exchange. And the idea came up that if Australia has its JORC (Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee), and [thought of] the idea for the Philippines to have its own as well. And that's how the idea of having PMRC came about,” said Atty. Quintero. Organizations that were involved in the promulgation of the PMRC back in 2007 were Philippine Minerals Development Institute Foundation, Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, Geological Society of the Philippines, Society of Metallurgical Engineers of the Philippines, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Philippine Stock Exchange, Board of Investments, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and Philippine-Australia Business Council. The Secretariat Head of the Geological Society of the Philippines CPAC, Engr. Ramon N. Santos reported on the “Basics of the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code 2007 and Its Implementing Rule and Regulations”. Mr. Joey Nelson R. Ayson (PMEA President) reporting on “PMRC: Updates and Relevance to the Mineral Industry”. Other speakers were (top left - right) Engr. Roger A. De Dios (PSEM National President) and Mr George B. Baquiran (GSP CPAC Chair) (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal) Engr. Juancho Pablo S. Calvez, Chief Metallurgist of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Member of the PRC Board for Metallurgical Engineering gave a rundown of the PMRC Committee Role and Composition. This was followed by a discussion on the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO) and International Reporting Codes by Mr George B. Baquiran. He is the Chairperson of the Geological Society of the Philippines - Competent Person Accreditation Committee (GSP CPAC) and PMRCC Standards Committee Chair. PMEA President, Mr Joey Nelson R. Ayson reported on “PMRC: Updates and Relevance to the Mineral Industry”. Included in his report is the CRIRSCO Membership Update (Task Force of International Council for Mining and Metals - ICMM): ● Feb. 23, 2019 - CRIRSCO-PMRCC MOU signed ● March 2019 - PMRCC-CRIRSCO Working Group formed ● Sept. 9-11, 2019 - Annual CRIRSCO Meeting in Washington D.C., U.S.A. ○ PMRCC Executive Committee attended (Jun Angeles and Jake Foronda) ● Proposed Timeline for PMRCC to become a CRIRSCO member ○ Aim by third quarter of 2020 ● Upgrading PMRC 2007 according to the CRIRSCO Reporting Template 2019 ○ Approved PMRC Code aim by second quarter of 2020 Mr Ayson also reported the “Bases for PMRC Review/Upgrade” wherein the primary basis is the CRIRSCO International Reporting Template 2019, and the secondary bases are JORC 2012 and NI 43-101. In conclusion, he stated the PMRC and PMRCC relevance to the Philippine minerals industry, namely: ● To protect investors in mineral exploration and mining ● To protect the capital markets from fraudulent practices ● To promote a common understanding in reporting mineral assets ● For our Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to be world class in attracting mineral investments, both domestically and internationally. PMRC Committee’s Relevance: ● Need for a Philippine-wide National Reporting Organization (NRO) to monitor the effectiveness and relevance of the PMRC and subject the PMRC to periodic reviewers ● Growing importance of compatibility and substantial equivalency with other international reporting codes ○ It is important to be a CRIRSCO member to ensure that PMRC Code will always be at par with the CRIRSCO family of internal reporting codes. Finally, the Open Forum was conducted by Engr. Roger A. De Dios, PSEM National President.