Phoenix-based mining firm interested in Siana, Mainit project

ONE OF the world’s largest miners, the Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., has expressed interest to invest as much as $5 billion in a mining project in either Kalinga or Surigao del Norte, a Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) official said.

“Freeport-McMoRan is willing to invest as much as $5 billion in the Siana gold project in Surigao del Norte, which is operated by Australian miner Red 5 Ltd.,” Edwin G. Domingo, MGB director, told reporters late Friday. The firm is also studying the Batongbuhay mine in Kalinga.

Mr. Domingo said Freeport-McMoRan Executive Vice-President for Exploration David W. Potter met with him and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Horacio C. Ramos two weeks ago over the Siana gold project.

“The amount of investment will mainly rely on the results of drilling in the site, and Mr. Potter said they are willing to invest as much as $5 billion, which is almost as big as Xstrata Copper’s $5.2 billion investment in their Tampakan copper-gold project in Mindanao,” he said.

The Siana gold project in Surigao del Norte is already in the construction and development stage and is expected to start mining operations anytime soon, Mr. Domingo said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Domingo said Philex Mining Corp. has allocated P200 million to P300 million for exploration projects this year.

“Philex has a budget of P200 to P300 million this year for exploration projects. They have properties in Southern Negros and Zamboanga,” Mr. Domingo said.

The government official added there was a possibility of LG International Corp. forging a partnership with Philex Mining in one of the latter’s projects.

Meanwhile, Mr. Domingo said an investigation team was sent last May 26 following the suspension in November of the environmental compliance certificate of Intex Resources ASA over its Mindoro Nickel Project. “The DENR has created and mobilized an investigation team, and results of this are expected by June 4 at the latest,” Mr. Domingo said.

The government suspended the environmental permit of Intex after local government units in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro picketed DENR’s office in Quezon City.

The local governments claimed they were not consulted on the mining project’s impact in their respective communities.

“Intex doesn’t have any problems with MGB with regards to permits and other papers, so after the DENR has resolved the issue, there are no further problems with their mining operations,” Mr. Domingo said. -- Kathleen A. Martin, BWorld

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