A rare offer February 7, 2013 So much news has been generated by the country’s unexpected economic upswing and yet many analysts are asking for caution because they believe that such strong economic performance has yet to be sustained. This can only be possible if we can attract foreign investors and especially if we can make them stay for good. We have seen multinational investors pulling out and going to countries like Thailand or elsewhere. In my column last Thursday, I narrated that the country does not even have to lift a finger in attracting foreign direct investments. Many of them, specifically in the mining industry, have already come in and have in fact spent millions of dollars via their respective Corporate Social Responsibility programs only to fend for themselves against anti-mining extremists—those whose hearts bleed for the environment but who do nothing to alleviate poverty and unemployment. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines says that the industry remains in limbo as businessmen and potential investors await the new mining law to be passed by Congress as a consequence of Malacañang’s executive order on mining or EO79. The Chamber says that industry stakeholders have lost all hope that a new mining law would be approved before the close of the 15th Congress and that a moratorium on new mining contracts would be lifted. The Chamber adds that foreign investments that flowed into the country last year only reached $509.24 million, 75 percent lower than the estimated $2 billion. The country in effect lost $1.5 billion worth of potential investments—all because of the Aquino administration’s many inconsistent and often conflicting policies. According to the Chamber, due to project delays caused by the implementation of EO79, mining investments inflow for 2013 would likely reach $718.47 million, down from the previous target of $2.07 billion; $852.75 million in 2014 from the previous estimate of $2.4 billion; $757.8 million in 2015 from $2.9 billion; and $515 million in 2016 down from the estimated $2.3 billion. Most mining projects are also on hold due to provincial ordinances prohibiting open-pit mining. So, what else is new in the President’s oft-repeated claim that foreign investments are pouring in? Jon Steen Petersen, chief executive officer of Norwegian-based Intex Resources ASA in a recent interview agreed with me that not everything is lost. I told him his company’s pedigree is just what the country needs and that patience would pay handsome dividends in the end. Intex, he says, has thus decided to stay. I succeeded in convincing Petersen to stay since I believe that sooner or later Malacañang will realize the need for consistent and rational mining policies. But I often ask myself: Did I do right? Mindoro Nickel, which Intex is hoping to turn into one of the world’s biggest nickel producers, has more to offer other than nickel. Just recently, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau director was quoted in the newspapers as saying that the Philippines is in dire need of Rare Earth Element (REE) and has in fact earmarked P20 million to explore for REE in Nueva Vizcaya and Palawan, where deposits of these rare elements were found to be close to copper-gold mines. Rare-earth metals are a group of elements that are used in a wide range of products we use every day, including hard drives and hybrid cars. Their properties notably are lightweight magnets, which make them key to ongoing miniaturization of electronics and the growth of green technologies. China has recognized the importance of these elements decades ago and new supplies almost all the world’s rare earth materials. Santa Banana, again the government need not look any further because Mindoro Nickel can give these rare materials for free! Petersen said that REE and Scandium can be produced by Mindoro Nickel without additional mining costs as a by products that could provide 100 tons of Scandium per year and similar amount of REE. This could well open up the country for new opportunities as the supply of Scandium today is constrained by its prohibitive price of $150 per gram. Petersen said: “Intex/Mindoro Nickel could produce 100 tons Scandium (and probably as much REE) per year from the waste liquor and has already started test work in Canada with this in mind. Since the mining and transport costs are already paid for by other metals, Scandium and REE could come in as bonus, in addition to the fertilizer and other premiums Mindoro Nickel already is offering. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/02/07/a-rare-offer/2/
Intex Resources Philippines Inc. 2014