By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Both the value and output of the country’s metals production went up in the first three months of the year, thanks to gold production claiming dominance as government goes after nickel mines.
A data from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) released on Thursday showed that the Philippine metallic mineral production value jumpstart the year with 11.57 percent growth in the first three months of the year from P24.62 billion in the same period last year to P27.47 billion.
The good performance of mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide (MNCS) and gold were the drivers for this positive turnout, it said. To be specific, production value of MNCS and gold went up by P1.83 billion and P1.12 billion, respectively.
In terms of contribution to the total metallic mineral production value, gold validated its dominance over the other metals with 45 percent, or P12.22 billion, input during the review period.
The combined output of direct shipping nickel ore and MNCS took the second spot with 36 percent, or P9.81 billion share.
In terms of output, gold produced 5,671 kilograms during the first three months of the year, 10 percent higher than the 5,034 kilograms recorded in the same period last year.
The combined output of MNCS and nickel direct shipping ore, on the other hand, stood around 3 million dry metric tons (DMT), which is higher than the 29 million DMT recorded in the same period last year.
“It is important to note that, from 2012 to 2015, the joint production value of nickel direct shipping ore and MNCS consistently took the top spot with a four-year average of almost 49 percent of the total metallic production value.
The highest recorded contribution made by nickel was in 2014 at 58 percent, or P80 billion,” MGB said.
“However, gold bested nickel in 2016 and 2017 due to a string of suspension of operation in nickel mines in Zambales and Palawan,” it added.
Out of the 28 nickel mines, 18 reported zero production and only 10 reported production in Q1 2019.
Zero production were due to several factors including unfavorable weather conditions as well as mines being under maintenance/care status or program. The number of suspended operations due to environmental related issues also took a toll on production.
“A nickel mining operation, being surface mining, is always vulnerable to the weather condition. In Surigao and Dinagat Islands, rains come in the months of January, February, March, October, November and December, with January being the wettest month. About 18 nickel projects are located in the said provinces,” MGB also noted.
Meanwhile, copper gave the third largest share to total nickel output, contributing 18 percent, or P5.06 billion. The remaining 1 percent, or P310 million, came from the total value of silver and chromite .
In terms of metal prices, precious metals gold and silver, and the base metals copper and nickel, were sluggish during the review period. The yellow and white metal declined 1.94 percent and 7.11 percent, respectively year-on-year.
The average price of gold went down from US$1,329.89 in Q1 2018 to US$1,304.15 per ounce in Q1 2019, almost a US$26 difference. In the same way, base metals, copper and nickel, went down by 10.63 percent and 6.63 percent. Copper declined from US$6,956.02 per ton to US$6,216.65 per ton year-on-year while nickel waned from US$13,261.42 to US$12,382.18 per ton year-on-year.
Moving forward, the MGB still see gold dominating the production-scene, which will be backed by some regulatory decisions such as the passage of Republic Act No. 11256 or An Act to Strengthen the country’s Gross International Reserves (GIR), amending for the Purpose Sections 32 and 151 of the National Internal Revenue Code, as Amended, and for Other Purposes last 29 March 2019.