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Mineral Potential in the Philippines

1. Mineral Potential

The Philippines is a well-endowed country in terms of mineral resources. With its long history and experience in mining, it has demonstrated its very rich potential for copper, gold, nickel, chromite and other metallic minerals through the commercial operation of numerous mines. It is also abundant in non-metallic and industrial minerals such as marble, limestone, clays, feldspar, rock aggregates, dolomite, guano, and other quarry resources.

The Philippine minerals industry is currently an industry below US$ 1 Billion in annual sales (Figure 1) similar to Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, but lagging behind Indonesia (US$ 3.6 Billion), Chile (US$ 13 Billion) and Western Australia (US$ 26 Billion).

To make them useful to the economy, the rich mineral resources of the Philippines have to be explored and developed into commercial mines. However, there is not much local funds available for exploration investments. Historically, the funds used for exploration come substantially from foreign investors through foreign direct investments. The Philippines has to compete with other mineral producing countries to attract this fund. During the period 1995 to 1999, majority of the exploration funds went to Indonesia, Chile and Peru. At that time, these countries were perceived by foreign investors to be the most attractive countries to invest in. The Philippines only received as much foreign direct investments as PNG and Tanzania.

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Over the past decade, and despite stiff competition with other countries for exploration funds, the Philippines has progressively expanded in exploration resulting in the discovery of a new generation of world-class high-profit potential deposits of gold and copper (about 1.5% copper equivalent) such as the Tampakan Copper Deposit, Far Southeast Copper Deposit, Boyungan Copper Prospect and many others. These deposits can be differentiated from previous discoveries which are low-grade and shallow-seated. They are relatively higher in value hence they can better absorb the social and environmental costs of mining

Figure 3 -   Proportions of Land Area In The Philippines
With Potential For Metallic Minerals And Area Covered By Mining

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Of the total thirty (30) million hectares of land area in the Philippines, only about one and a half percent (1.5%) are presently covered by mining permits. Of the balance in area, about thirty percent (30%) were found by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to be geologically prospective for metallic minerals. With continuing exploration and geological mapping work, this potential for metals is expected to increase further. There is an estimated nine (9) million hectares more of potential sites for metallic minerals

Figure 4 - Areas In The Philippines With Potential For MetallicMineralization

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The offshore area is another potential domain for mineral wealth of the country. The Philippine offshore area including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers a wide span of about 2.2 million square kilometers. By law, it is classified as a mineral reservation area by virtue of the 1987 Constitution. It is known to be potentially rich in placer minerals such as gold, chromite, magnetite and silica; polymetallic sulphide deposits containing gold, copper, cobalt, and other minerals; manganese nodules and encrustrations with associated copper, gold, zinc, cobalt; and construction aggregates such as sand and gravel; and decorative stones.

Figure  5 - Offshore Areas In The Philippines With Potential For Minerals

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