China exploring mining opportunities

CHINESE GEOLOGISTS and mining experts have visited the country to exchange data on mineral resources with local counterparts as they look for possible opportunities in the Philippines, the head of the Mines bureau said.

A five-man team from the state-run China Geological Survey (CGS) visited late last month "as part of our agreement to exchange technical information and to visit [local] mining projects," Horacio C. Ramos, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said in a phone interview.

Surveying

Last year, the Environment department signed an agreement with Chinese counterpart Ministry of Land Resources, which has direct jurisdiction over CGS, to work together for the exchange of mineral and geological data.

"They are also looking [at mining projects] and then they can relay the information to their government and private companies," Mr. Ramos said in Filipino.

The Chinese experts visited mining projects in Paracale in Camarines Norte, Surigao del Norte, and Cebu.

Members of the CGS left the country last Tuesday, but will be back next month "to prepare a final geological report with local experts," Sevillo D. David, chief of the Planning Division of the Mines bureau, said in a separate phone interview.

Interest

At the same time, the Mines bureau will be sending five local geologists to China in March or April next year to explore opportunities for joint ventures, Mr. Ramos said.

Late last month, China’s Jiangxi Rare Earth & Metals Tungsten Group Co. Ltd., signed an agreement with locally listed Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. to build a nickel-cobalt leaching plant in the Berong nickel mine in Palawan.

Officials of the Mines bureau also said early this month that Metallurgical Construction Corporation, one of the largest construction companies in China, had expressed interest in building a copper processing and smelter plant worth at least $1 billion, instead of a steel mill in Mindanao.

Mr. Ramos also said he will lead a team to visit Fujian province early next year to follow up Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd.’s plan to buy a 20% stake in the Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. in Benguet, which is owned by local firm Lepanto Mining Corp.

Potential

The Philippines sits atop an estimated $1 trillion worth of unexplored copper, gold, nickel and zinc reserves.

Investments in the mining industry have totalled just $1.718 billion since 2004, when the Supreme Court allowed complete foreign ownership in mining ventures.

The Mines bureau earlier admitted that the $10-billion investment target for 2011 would have to be delayed a year or two given the difficulty of securing financing for investments amid the worsening global financial crisis.

The bureau announced that full-year mining investment this year will likely be $826 million, less than the $1-billion target. — Neil Jerome C. Morales

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