Miners report heavy losses as exploration activities continue

PUBLICLY LISTED Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. is expecting P150 million in profits this year given higher gold production, the head of the mining company said yesterday.

The expected profit from producing 45,000 ounces of gold in its Teresa and Victoria mines in Benguet will reverse the company’s combined P969 million in net losses for the past two years, Lepanto President and Chief Operating Officer Bryan U. Yap said during the company’s annual stockholders meeting.

The Victoria and Teresa mines , which have a combined area of 2,777 hectares, have estimated ore reserves of 0.39 million ounces of gold and 16.97 million pounds of copper.

Lepanto hiked its copper output last year to 3.544 million pounds from 246,386 pounds in 2007 but copper prices dropped to $1.32 per pound in December from $3.98 per pound in June. But gold prices averaged $871.96 per ounce last year from $697.71 per ounce in 2007.

"On the copper side, we do not think we are going to resume copper [operations] within the year. We will be evaluating it and if the copper price improves again ... then we will start looking at it," Mr. Yap told reporters.

Meanwhile, listed miners Atok Big Wedge Co., Inc., Manila Mining Corp. and Geograce Resources Phils., Inc. continued incurring losses last year amid exploration activities.

Atok Big Wedge said its net loss narrowed a bit to P5.362 million from P5.460 million year on year. Losses per share remained at P0.21.

Geograce posted a P95.84-million net loss, down from P102.36 million in 2007 while Manila Mining cut its net losses by more than half last year to P132.037 million from P276.979 million in 2007, but bigger than P112.679 million in 2006.

Manila Mining, which owns a 4,844-hectare copper and gold mine in Placer, Surigao del Norte, plans to continue exploration this year. — N.J.C. Morales

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