SAFETY IS PRIORITY A miner on Friday tests his ability to stop fires at his workplaces during a competition held as part of this year’s National Mine Safety and Environment Conference in Baguio City. —NEIL CLARK ONGCHANGCO

BAGUIO CITY — The government will take the lead in exploring, identifying and safeguarding mineral deposits of “critical metals” such as nickel and lithium, which will be in high demand as the world shifts to green technologies, the government announced Thursday. Secretary of the Environment, Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga.

Speaking at this year’s mineral symposium Mine safety and Environment here, Loyzaga said state-sponsored exploration of what she described as “strategically important mineral resources” would begin next year, part of President Marcos’ initiative to manage an estimated US$1 trillion worth of gold, copper, zinc, chromite and other mineral reserves in the country.

The government, she said, is also developing a critical minerals roadmap to help guide policy and protect these resources.

“The environment supports the economy and not the other way around”, highlighted Loyzaga.

She said climate change has forced global industries to seek clean, renewable energy, promote electric vehicles and reduce carbon pollution, and develop batteries that not only run electric cars but also store energy produced by solar farms, wind farms, power plants geothermal and hydroelectric energy. plants.

These developing technologies and commodities require copper, nickel and nickel by-products such as cobalt.

“The intensity of extreme weather events now crossing regions and changes in temperature and the amount of rainwater will have an impact [a mine’s] engineering and operations,” said Loyzaga.

Using a “climate lens,” the government analyzed and assessed the environmental impact of mining and used artificial intelligence devices and satellite imagery to identify climate-vulnerable mine sites and for surveillance of mining operations in order to address the problems, she said.

“My ambition is to increase the contribution of the mining industry to the country, so that we do not need to look for jobs abroad,” said Loyzaga, given that mines currently represent only 1% or 2% of gross domestic product. .

Best producer

But the country is also the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of nickel ore, she said.

Nickel and nickel byproducts mined in 2022 were valued at P117.64 billion, while mines unearthed P25.67 billion worth of copper last year, according to a fact sheet from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Gold production in 2022, essential for the semiconductor trade, was valued at P91.05 billion.

Last year, the industry produced metallic minerals worth an estimated P238.2 billion, 31.9% higher than the value of metallic minerals (P180.61 billion) in 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to abate.

Currently, China is the biggest buyer of the local nickel industry, followed by Japan and the United States, although demand has slowed down “because China has filled its quota for the year”, said Danilo Uykieng, head of the MGB, during a interview. on Tuesday.

Uykieng said new mines are expected to begin land development and construction of their project sites by 2025, now that the government has lifted most restrictions affecting the industry, such as the previous ban on open pit mining.

The Philippines could soon become a major copper exporter once Sagittarius Mines Inc.’s Tampakan unit in South Cotabato begins commercial operations in late 2026, Finance Undersecretary Karlo Fermin Adriano said.

Foreign support

The ambassadors of the United States, Australia and Canada to the Philippines expressed their support as well as interest in the country’s push for critical minerals at the week-long mine safety conference.

According to US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson, the Philippines has abundant resources that will preserve the global supply chain of green technology minerals, although “it is critical to balance the demand for mineral resources with environmental and economic sustainability.”

Carlson, during a mines networking reception hosted at the Ambassador’s Residence at Camp John Hay, told reporters that the US government has invested in projects that analyze and promote “transparency and accountability in natural resource governance.”

Australian Ambassador Hae Kyong Yu said the same technologies would help the Philippines shift to “green mining” to bolster the industry’s advocacy for responsible and sustainable mines.

“Green mining” refers to mining operations that use environmentally sustainable resources, such as renewable energy, which some local companies have begun to explore.

On Thursday, Loyzaga signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the University of the Philippines Public Administration Foundation for a P5 million technical assistance program “to develop the sector critical mineral of the Philippines.”

The Partnership for Sustainable Development and Investment in Mineral Extraction and Processing “supports the Philippine government’s vision to become a hub for the processing of minerals such as nickel and copper,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Rebekah Eubanks.

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She said this “paves the way for Philippine industries to play a role in the production of electric vehicles, for example.”



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