Philippines to sell idle state mines from 2023 as part of sector shakeup

June 1, 2022 - 6:39 PM
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A Filipino mining engineer examines a mineralized ore containing copper and zinc in front of a milling plant in Lafayette Mining's open pit multi-mineral mine at Rapu Rapu island in the central Philippines, 350 km (217 miles) south of Manila, October 16, 2005. (Reuters/Erik de Castro/File Photo)

 The Philippines will sell idle state-held mining assets from next year, part of an 18-year plan to develop its fledgling mineral sector and boost its contribution to economic growth, the industry regulator said on Wednesday.

The Philippines is China’s biggest supplier of mostly low-grade nickel ore used to produce nickel pig iron, a raw material for stainless steel, but mining accounts for less than 1% of its overall economic output.

Though more than a third the Philippines’ land area has been identified as having “high mineral potential”, less than 5% of its mineral reserves has been extracted so far, according to the mines bureau.

Assets up for sale include several nickel and copper mines and copper-gold projects, all in central and southern provinces, which the government took over from private firms several years ago and were subject to a legal review launched in 2020.

In a quarterly report, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said the assets sale was part of an 18-year plan that aims to boost investor confidence in the Philippine mining sector, then expand domestic ore production and mineral assets, and sell government-held mines.

From 2026 to 2040, the plan focuses on improving infrastructure for mining and domestic processing to increase mineral exports value, the report said.

Restrictive policies saw the industry stagnate for years. President Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term ends on June 30, has recently lifted restrictions in the sector, including a ban on open-pit mining.

—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty