The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking at a more focused government-led exploration of critical metals needed for renewable energy (RE) transition with the end-goal of encouraging the private sector to invest and boost mining prospects in the Philippines.
DENR Undersecretary for Environment and Integrated Science Carlos Primo David issued this statement during a news briefing at the sidelines of the ongoing Mining Philippines 2023 International Conference and Exhibition organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) at the Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday.
With the theme “Seeing Green: Shaping a Sustainable Minerals Development Industry,” the event brought together a diverse assembly of participants, including government officials, private sector representatives, academics, indigenous communities, and mining host communities to chart a new path for the future of mining in the Philippines.
Representing DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, David expressed DENR’s support to the mining industry in terms of governance and regulation, citing the potential of the country’s minerals development sector to be an important player in the global RE transition market.
“The government has a budget of P60 million for minerals exploration. But it’s like a ‘shotgun exploration.’ What we want to do is to focus it on certain areas,” he explained.
David pointed out such a budget, which is for the whole country, is divided into 16 for equal distribution for every region, including Metro Manila. Such a budget, he added, is not enough and the DENR now finds it imperative to focus the exploration activities for critical minerals, for instance, because of the increasing global demand for electric vehicle batteries.
“We wanted to focus that small budget and revive exploration by government. Hopefully, when we do the initial exploration, there is enough information for the private sector to get interested and continue the exploration,” he said.
David said the objective of would-be government-led exploration is to be able to identify minerals and declare more mineralized areas.
“We wanted to help the industry with this critical step. Before you develop, mining starts with exploration. It should be government-initiated,” he stressed. Among the targeted critical mineral deposits are nickel and chromium, David said.
He said the government, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), will also follow up on previously explored areas that were eventually left or discontinued.
He said there’s one potentially gold-rich area that is not known to be a gold district that such government-led exploration discovered before. “We want to revive those,” he said.
To do this, David said, a Department Administrative Order or Memorandum Circular will be needed “all for the purpose of being able to declare an area a mineral area, through government-led exploration, for any mining development in any mineral area goes additional royalty for government, and jobs, too,” said David, a licensed geologist and an expert in environmental science.
For gold, he said, it would require a little more extensive exploration. David said the plan is to drill one or two holes and see if there’s enough deposit in the area. For the nickel deposit, which is at the surface, exploration will cover a bigger area, he said.
David said potential nickel deposits that can be explored by the government are those in the areas of Zambales, Isabela, and Antique.