Battery minerals, our next boom?
"Just imagine the millions of families that will benefit from the quality jobs and infrastructure developments in remote areas."
We are a country with a trillion-dollar potential in mining waiting to be unleashed. But because of the unstable regulatory environment that the government created, the industry has been deprived of vast opportunities to help and uplift our country, by and large. Thus, the potential remains to be that—a potential.
For instance, in 2016, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines came out with a list of potential FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments) and from that short list alone, there was a total of $23 billion in investment potential.
The top of the list is Tampakan (Sagittarius Mines), South Cotabato at $5.9 billion, followed by: Intex Resources in Mindoro at $2.5 billion, Silangan (Philex Mining Corp.) in Surigao del Norte at $2 billion, Kingking (Nadecor) in Davao del Norte at $2 billion, Asiaticus in Davao del Norte at $2 billion, FSE (Lepanto Mining Corp.) in Benguet at $2 billion, Philsaga Mining in Masbate at $2 billion, Philnico (San Miguel Corp) in Surigao del Sur at $2 billion, Balabag (TVIRD) in Zamboanga del Sur at $2 billion, Balatoc (BC) in Benguet at $350 million, and Global Ferronickel in Palawan at $250 million.
These 11 projects, all in remote, underserved, underdeveloped areas, have been stranded in regulatory limbo for years, some even decades and are low lying fruits the government can harness to boost economic growth in these areas. shows that theshows a readily available growth potential of the mining industry in our country is real. The century and a half experience that we have had is a definite advantage to propel the country to economic victory!
More technology needs more minerals
Today, technological innovation is foremost in any industry creating an emerging surge in demand for mineral resources creating new opportunities for that the Philippine mining industry should be ready to exploit.
The demand for electronic devices (mobile phones. etc.) and the global trend shifting to electric vehicles and more environment friendly hybrid power generation and micro-grids are pushing the development of power storage solutions, in other words, rechargeable batteries. It so happens that essential battery minerals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese are just some of our endowed resources that we have barely started to harvest.
Tesla one of the world’s leading innovators in battery technology, has warned of a potential shortage in battery metals and has invested in securing its own metal resources with several metallic mines. Other manufacturers are doing the same and positioning to capture the looming switch to renewable energy solutions where dependable batteries will be indispensable.
We are 4th in the world in terms of cobalt reserves and our copper reserves are estimated at 4 billion metric tons and this makes the Philippines the fourth largest in the world in terms of copper reserves. While nickel is our biggest mineral production, in 2016 we were able to produce 500,000 MT, with Indonesia opting out of nickel exports we are positioned to be biggest producer of nickel in the world.
So, what’s the problem?
The government must cut the policy chains tying down the potential of our mineral resources. We have been picking our minerals in trickles and wasting the current capacity of the mining industry. We missed an opportunity in the last congress when House Bill 8400 establishing a new fiscal regime for the mining industry passed in the House of Representatives (HOR) but did not make it through the Senate for lack of time.
This was after months of deliberation between the government and industry stakeholders that finally resulted in a compromise that increased the government’s share while maintaining viability and competitiveness in the global market. The proposed revenue sharing scheme was based on existing tax regimes of countries with well-developed mining industries where mining is a major economic engine of growth.
The HOR Committee on Ways and Means will be conducting new hearings of the refiled version which should hopefully see fast approval. The bill aims to rationalize and institute a single fiscal regime applicable to all mineral agreements and enhance the equitable share of the government in the utilization of natural resources without compromising the mining sector’s need for reasonable return on its investment and support the industries’ development.
When signed into law, this should satisfy the controversial provisions of Executive Order 79 issued by President Benigno Aquino III banning the issuance of new mining permits and proving to be the industry killing policy that President Duterte would do well to scrap.
The next time you charge your phone, bear in mind that there are $23 billion in pending investments just waiting for a stable and competitive regulatory environment that will spark an industry boom driven by the rising demand for metallic minerals from tech manufacturers.
Just imagine the millions of families that will benefit from the quality jobs and infrastructure developments in these remote areas. If only the government will let the legitimate (not the illegal) responsible mining industry do their thing, the revenues and prosperity they will create will negate the need for more taxes, and that will be great for all of us.