A consortium of institutional investors from South Korea and the Philippine General Minerals Project Inc. are actively exploring opportunities for collaboration and partnership for the sustainable extraction of critical minerals and rare earth elements in the Philippines.
PGMPI president and chief executive Antonio Parlade Jr. said the business consortium Busan Equity Partners led by Yonsung Lee and the firm he founded had made several significant discussions and steps towards a potential private-public-partnership with the South Korean investors, aligning with the Korean government’s requirements for strategic metals.
BEP officials visited the country in April, days after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed intention to source critical mineral requirements from the Philippines and Indonesia, aiming to reduce their reliance on China by at least 50 percent.
“These metals are of utmost significance and importance to South Korea’s highly industrialized sectors, including prominent manufacturing giants such as Samsung, Hyundai, and POSCO, thus highlighting the urgency of the Philippine government’s response on the matter,” said Parlade, a retired military general.
BEP officials, accompanied by PGMI executives, met on different dates with Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual Jr. and Board of Investments vice chairman Ceferino Rodolfo, Development Bank of the Philippines director Maria Lourdes Arcenas and president and chief executive Michael de Jesus.
The DTI and BOI expressed optimism about the project and pledged to coordinate with counterparts for the Philippines-South Korea Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to facilitate future collaborations with PGMPI.
“These discussions mark an important step towards a potential Private-Public-Partnership, forging strong ties between PGMPI and South Korea’s industrialized sectors in pursuit of mutual economic growth and stability,” Parlade said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Indonesia on May 10, 2023 pronounced that the Philippines would be a producer of critical metals and minerals and not just an exporter of iron ore.
“As the industrialized nations grapple for control of the supply and demand of critical minerals and resources necessary for space and defense technology, the EV industry, nuclear power, and telecommunications, President Marcos’ announcement is certainly well timed,” Parlade said.
“The Philippines sits on vast natural resources, and more than 3,000 mining operations in the country have left millions of tons of waste materials which, incidentally, PGMPI’s R&D, as well as other companies around the world, have confirmed to contain many of these heavily contested and sought out materials,” he said.
Parlade said PGMPI initially conducted extensive research to delve into the dynamics of the trade war between the United States and China, particularly regarding rare earth materials and precious metals.
“Our research also ‘unearthed’ a wealth of information on the presence of these critical minerals in waste tailings, both on the surface and underground, as well as millions of tons of ore being shipped out of the country, many of them finding their way in the reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
With support from the AFP, the PGMPI research involved onshore and underwater surveillance of black sand materials in Cagayan and Albay, ores and tailings from Kalinga to Tawi-Tawi and even from disaster-ridden mining sites such as Marcopper in Marinduque and Apex Mining in Davao de Oro, where vast quantities of tailings remain stagnant in artificial lakes and ponds.
“These situations continue to pose potential risks to low-lying villages and necessitates attention from the Office of Civil Defense and the Department of National Defense. With clear guidance from the then National Security Adviser, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, PGMPI meticulously explored methods of harnessing these minerals without causing further harm to the environment,” he said.