The government on Tuesday asked miners to help the government establish three new nickel processing facilities in mineral-rich areas of Zambales, CARAGA region and Palawan.
Environment Undersecretary for integrated environmental science Carlos Primo David said the government would help the private sector carry out the projects by providing the necessary support.
“The goal is to supply the downstream industry. I’m not sure if we can support the EV [electric vehicle] production phase [for EV batteries], but we have been benchmarking with Indonesia. While we are still trying to catch up with their HPAL [high-pressure acid leaching] technology, they have already stepped up to the EV platform,” David said at the opening of the 2023 Mining Conference at Edsa Shangri La Manila in Mandaluyong City.
David said Indonesia has been using laterite ores to produce EV batteries―a game changing process that the Philippines should also develop to become a viable player in the EV space.
He noted the Philippines’ capacity to support EV battery production with the abundance of critical metals in the country. It has the second biggest copper deposits and the third largest nickel deposits, globally, he said.
Nickel Asia Corp. operates two nickel-processing facilities in the Philippines, but the DENR said the additional three facilities would fast-track local initiatives to create the ecosystem for downstream processing.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants to augment its budget for government-lead exploration. It said the current P60-million budget spread out to 16 regions is not enough to finance extensive exploration.
“It’s like a shotgun exploration. What we want to do is to focus on certain areas. Hopefully, when we do the initial exploration, there is enough information for the private sector to get interested and continue the exploration,” David said.
He said reviving the government-led exploration is a critical step to get mining companies interested and continue the exploration on their own.
David said the exploration targets critical mineral deposits such as nickel and chromium. He said the government, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), would also follow up on previously explored areas that were eventually abandoned or discontinued.
The DENR also plans to issue either a department administrative order or a memorandum circular to declare a mining area as mineral reservation area to open new revenue stream for the government through profits earned from mining operations, he said.
“Whether it is government-owned or in partnership with a mining company, the government will have a share from the profits earned,” David said.
The DENR at present earns revenues from the mining industry in the form of taxes and royalties.