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New king of PH minerals By Jimbo Gulle
Before it reaches its purest form (far right), nickel is found in nickelsulphide ores such as this. It is then shaped into some of the world’s most useful items — including the Philippine one-peso coin, which contains 25 percent of the versatile element (inset).
he Philippines used to be known for its gold, silver, and copper, but a new element has taken the throne as the country’s top mineral product: nickel.
All About Nickel By Carmela Martinez NICKEL, abbreviated Ni in the table of elements, is one of the most widelyused elements in the long list of elements in the periodic table. A silverywhite metallic element, nickel can be found in almost everything metallic and is an important element in our daily lives. Here’s why: 1. Nickel came from the German word “kupfernickel” which means “devil’s copper.” It was found by German miners who thought that it was copper, but when they failed to extract copper, they blamed it on being a work of the devil, hence the name. 2. Nickel is the fifth-most common element on earth that can be found almost everywhere, with its use in over 300,000 products for consumer, industrial, military, transport, aerospace, marine and architectural applications. When mixed with other metals, it produces stainless and heat-resistant steels such as cooking utensils, medical equipment, and others. 3. The Philippines is one of the top producers of Nickel in Asia, with Rio Tuba Mine in Bataraza, Palawan yielding an estimated reserve of 60.2 million tons of nickel ore or 764, 000 tons of nickel metal. 4. Nickel is one of the most recycled materials globally. Being 100 percent recyclable, nickel or nickel alloys are collected and re-used for future use. It helps the environment and industries worldwide with its recyclable properties, thus is featured in ecofriendly pans, pots, kitchen sinks, batteries, as well as medical and food processing equipment. 5. Nickel can be found in food, especially in chocolate. Dark chocolate has a nickel concentration of 2.6 micrograms per gram; milk chocolate has 1.2 ug/g and pure powdered cocoa 9.8 ug/g. Cashews also have concentrated nickel at 5.1 ug/g. Kidney beans contains 0.45 ug/g, while spinach has 0.39 ug/g. Other vegetables that contain nickel are peas, leeks, beans, soya (and soy protein powder), lentils, cabbage, kale, spin-
ach, lettuce, and bean sprouts. Shellfish also contain a considerable amount of nickel.
Nickel is the fifth-most common element on earth. 6. Nickel, along with copper, zinc, steel and aluminum, is commonly used in coins. It is mostly used in American coins (the five-cent coin which has taken its name), but in the Philippines, old coins still in circulation contain several percentages of nickel. The 10-peso coin, 5-peso coin and 1-peso coin contains 27%, 5.5%, and 25% of nickel, respectively.
As the w o r l d ’s secondbiggest supplier of nickel ore, the countr y exported 577,000 metric tons of it in 2016 and 2017 combined. Last year’s nickel ore exports came in at 230,000 metric tons — a third less than the 2016 figure — but still raked in $455.21 million (P24.533 billion) for the country in 2017, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade. That dollar figure shows the bright potential of the versatile element for the Philippine economy, perhaps even more than the precious metals mined elsewhere in the country. In fact, the Philippines was the world’s top nickel producer in decades past, but the shifting local political landscape combined with environmental concerns forced it to lose ground to Indonesia. Our Southeast Asian neighbor has capitalized on our country’s current situation and kicked its production into high gear to feed the mineral-hungry economy of China. It doesn’t mean that local nickel miners aren’t standing their ground, though. Thirty of the country’s 50 mining firms dig for nickel, and seven of them have formed a group — the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) — to help champion the sector as well as the broader concept of responsible and sustainable mining that gives back to its partner communities. Established in 2012, PNIA was organized to promote and develop the nickel mining industry in the country. Given that the mining industry sector is a major backbone of the Philippine economy, the association believes that both the government and the private sector play significant roles as partners in developing this segment of the economy. PNIA believes the joint efforts of government and the private sector should be continuous and always aimed at revitalizing and developing mining in a manner that balances economic, environmental, and social objectives. The group also firmly advocates for self-regulation and sharing of best practices between and among key stakeholders of the mining industry. PNIA is committed to inspire, uplift, and promote the best mining practices within the local industry while building recognition of its contribution to local communities and society at large. Its current members include CTP Construction and Mining Corporation, Platinum Group Metals Corporation, DMCI Mining Corporation, Marcventures Mining Development Corporation, Carrascal Nickel Corporation, Citinickel Mines and De-
velopment Corporation, and Agata Mining Ventures, Inc. The vision of PNIA is to position the nickel development industry as a globally competitive and responsible driver of inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the Philippines. With these ideals in place, the PNIA is committed to inspire, uplift and promote the best mining practices within the local industry, while giving back to the community that entrusted the care of their land to its miners. “We are partners of the government and other stakeholders for responsible mining. We are providers of opportunities to our fellow Filipinos who want to attain a more prosperous way of life,” the group adds. Still, multiple challenges are on the horizon for Philippine nickel miners. First is that what was once one of the most liberal mining regimes in Southeast Asia is now subject to a government crackdown that shows no sign of relenting. As noted by Amanda Kay in an article for Investingnews.com, “For now, one thing is certain: the direction the Philippines goes with its mining policy moving forward will impact the global nickel market.” Second is producing the right type of nickel ore that end-users such as Chinese companies will use to produce anything from stainless steel to batteries for electric vehicles. A recent Standard and Poor’s analysis of the global nickel market says most nickel producTURN TO D3
Nickel can be found in food like dark chocolate. 7. Nickel is necessary for healthy plant life. Nickel, in small amounts, is found in plant enzymes that help balance the ammonia in them. Without it, the toxic levels of ammonie can accumulate in the plant’s tissues and thus the plant becomes entirely toxic.
A picture of Marcventures Mining’s nickel mine in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.
PNIA Chairman and President of Marcventures Mr. Isidro Alcantara Jr. speaks at the recent Philippine Mining Club luncheon in Makati City.
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PGMC deploys concrete reefs in Cagdianao Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) recently deployed long-lasting artificial concrete reefs at the Marine Protected Sanctuary in Brgy. Cagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte. Its team from the Environment Department, headed by Mr. Junel Garcia and Ms. Sunshine Dequiño Ogoc, were joined
by 34 volunteers from Cagdianao fisherfolk and representatives from the barangay government. The volunteers, guided by local fisherfolk, braved the strong water current to identify suitable areas for the concrete modules. The two-day activity installed 33 modules of concrete reefs at a distance of 5 meters from each other, and is expected to help expand the reef systems in the area.
PGMC partners with TESDA to provide beauty skills training
PLATINUM Group Metals Corporation (PGMC), the largest single lateritic ore exporter in the world, recently conducted a Beauty Care Skills Training in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Auhtority (TESDA) to residents of Surigao del Norte. A total of 73 participants from Barangays Cabugo, Wangke, Panatao, Sapa, Magallanes, Daywa, Tayaga, Bagakay, and Ladgaron underwent training on the basics of nail care, which includes how to perform manicures and pedicures and the proper care for tools and materials used by nail technicians.They also learned how to perform a hand spa and foot spa. The trainees were also provided their own tools and equipment to jump start their home-based business right after the training. The project is under PGMC’s Social Management Development Program (SDMP).
In the photo together with the training recipients are (seated from left): Kagawad Analiza Galaura of Brgy. Sapa; Brgy. Chairwoman Evelyn Palulay of Brgy. Tayaga; Brgy. Chairwoman Aida Bertudazo of Brgy. Sapa; Brgy. Chairman Reneboy Intema of Brgy. Magallanes; Brgy. Chairman Roberto Bayugbog of Brgy. Ladgaron, Alex C. Arabis, Community Relations Manager of PGMC; Joselito Ecoben of TESDA Especialist 2 Surigao del Norte; and Jessamor E. Celeste, Trainor.
Street lights bring peace of mind to Carrascal village
Street lights installed by MMDC along one of the roads which runs directly through the center of the town in Barangay Baybay, Carrascal, Surigao del Sur, an MMDC host community. In right photo, Barangay Councilor Gregorio Ronquillo is joined by town folks residing in areas that used to be too dark or ill-lit, but now illuminated and much safer than ever through MMDC’s donation of street lights. —
CARRASCAL, Surigao del Sur—Emalyn and Anthony Duero recall the days when they would not attempt to venture out of their home in the evening, frightened they would meet danger along the way. Roads in their coastal village of Baybay in this town were mostly unlit a magnet for street brawls among the youth and thieves. “It used to be too dark here which can put everyone at risk at night. Pedestrians could get hit by a passing vehicle so dark roads are really dangerous,” says the 34-year-old Emalyn, who has a two-year- old son with Anthony. “What worried us more were the ‘akyatbahay’ incidents that had become rampant in their village,” added Anthony. Recognizing the importance of illuminating their streets in deterring crimes and in enhancing road safety, Barangay Councilor Gregorio Ronquillo said the barangay council partnered with Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC), through its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), for the installation of street lights. The company’s Community Relations team are continuously identifying areas that need the same program. Now that the roads are well-lit, Ronquillo says street brawls have disappeared, and thefts have significantly dropped in the area. “The impact in terms of peace and order and road safety has been very great. We feel much safer now,” the village councilor said. “Gone are the days of paranoia when we worry a lot about thieves prowling at night. Even errant youths no longer converge in streets because we can now easily identify them.” For the Dueros, the street lights have brought comfort and peace of mind. “We are more comfortable to walk on our streets now that our area is better lit. We recognize the efforts of our Barangay officials and we are thankful for MMDC’s assistance,” Emalyn says.
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PNIA Chairman and President of Marcventures Holdings Inc. (MHI) Isidro C. Alcantara Jr. speaks at the recent Philippine Mining Club luncheon in Makati City.
PH nickel industry plants more than 4 million trees G OING beyond compliance in implementing responsible and sustainable mining operations, key players in the Philippine nickel industry have planted an estimated 4.2 million trees to date in the Caraga region and in Palawan.
The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA), through its seven member-companies, has raised its greening efforts in recent years as part of ongoing progressive rehabilitation and reforestation in their respective mining areas. “Our member-companies have planted more than we have mined. In fact, our ‘green’ footprint is larger than our mining footprint in terms of area. Our aggregate reforestation effort comes up to a total of about 2,000 hectares planted to date,” said Charmaine Olea-Capili, PNIA executive director. She cited a forest density of about 2,100 trees per hectare among its members -- which is much higher than the country’s National Greening Program. A variety of indigenous and endemic tree and grass species have been successfully planted since the start of rehabilitation efforts. These include Agoho, Mahogany, giant bamboo, Tiger Kamagong, Tiga, Ipil, Narra, and Ironwood, as well as fruit-bearing trees like Calamansi, Rambutan, Cashew, Jackfruit, and Cacao, among others. Cash crops such as rubber, coffee, vegetables, and herbal plants are also grown in the mine sites’ respective nurseries. Apart from providing employment to residents and to the indigenous community, the program also allows the companies to help their respective host communities, as seedlings can be donated to the community in support of various greening initiatives. This has given birth to an emerging downstream industry, agro-forestry, which also focuses on the community’s livelihood beyond mining. The intensified reforestation program demonstrates PNIA members’ commitment and contributions to the government’s “National Greening Program” or the NGP, which aims to revegetate some 1.2 million hectares of “unproductive, denuded, and degraded” forest land nationwide from 2017-2022. “Much effort has been poured into rehabilitation because what has been planted will outlast the mine itself. This is for the community and for the generations to come, long after the mines have concluded their operations,” said Capili. Meanwhile, PNIA is also set to undertake a unified effort to implement a Bamboo Plantation and Livelihood Project. The unique properties of bamboo complements on-going rehabilitation and reforestation efforts, provides livelihood opportunities and helps improve community disaster preparedness. In addition, the PNIA focuses on other environmental preservation initiatives such as wildlife conservation, marine protection, rubber plantations, tilapia production, and other activities that improve the environment. Organized in 2012 as non-stock non-profit organization, the PNIA is composed of Platinum Group Metals Corporation, CTP Construction and Mining Corporation, Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation, Carascal Nickel Corporation, DMCI Mining Corporation, Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation, and TVIRD’s Agata Mining Ventures Incorporated.
ers started their operations geared toward producing nickel sulfide ores, but when that became scarce, the market gravitated toward laterite ores that were costlier to extract. Finally, it’s up to local nickel miners to decide what grade of ore to produce that would make the most profit, given the generally falling prices for the metal in the world market. Mining firms are slowly shifting to shipping medium-grade ores amid
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declining prices of the usual low-grade nickel ores — 90 percent of which goes to China from the Philippines. “For the long term, this would mean that some mines might slowdown in their production in the coming years depending on the areas being mined. The shift would have to make adjustments depending on mineralization,” PNIA president Dante Bravo said in a recent forum. But the association itself remains optimistic for a brighter outlook for nickel in the short term. “Nickel is basically a consumer good. Nickel consumption is still increasing globally, particularly in China with their booming electronic vehicle industry, as well as increasing public expenditures on construction,” Bravo added. That only points to one thing—a long reign for the new king of Philippine minerals.
MARCVENTURES MINING: Trying To Make Lives Better
ARRASCAL, Surigao del Sur—Beyond regulatory compliance, Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) sees ethical and sustainable operations as a moral obligation to improve the conditions of the environment and community stakeholders. “Sustainability is in the mining industry’s DNA, and we are also guided by it at Marcventures as we operate,” says Mr.Isidro C. Alcantara Jr., President for Marcventures Holdings Inc. “Since we began our operations, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to responsible minerals development at the same time, we seek ways to uplift our host communities on a permanent basis, and we will continue to do so.” For MMDC therefore, social and environmental responsibility means leaving a positive mark on Mother Nature and for the people where the company operates. This is seen in the eyes of individuals whose lives have changed for the better; in the flourishing towns that benefit from mining taxes, jobs, and increased economic activities; in the conversion of mined-out lands into productive areas for sustainable livelihood. SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM One person whose life has drastically changed is MMDC scholar Rey Mark Cornejo, who was recently promoted as chef de partie at a luxury cafe in Qatar. In a letter to Mr. Alcantara, Rey Mark expressed deep gratitude to the company for helping him fulfill his dream of finishing a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. “Your generosity and the act of kindness of of Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) has inspired a young dreamer to achieve his life aspirations,” Rey Mark, who graduated in 2015, says. “I am so grateful all throughout these years that you all took part in my journey,” Rey Mark says of MMDC, whose scholarship program is acknowledged by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as the largest of its kind among the large-scale mining companies operating in Caraga Region. Bankrolled by its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund as well as the company’s Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), MMDC’s scholarship initiative has produced hundreds of college graduates over the years. The program currently has 236 college scholars enrolled in different colleges and universities in Mindanao, Visayas, and even Luzon. Some 35 scholars are expected to obtain their college degrees early next year. JOBS, LIVELIHOOD PROGRAMS As one of the largest employers in the region’s mining industry, MMDC provides hundreds of employment opportunities for local residents like Mendrado C. Guiral Jr.
Mendrado, a former OFW, decided not to go back to his job in the Middle East after being hired as an electrician by the company six years ago. “I knew too well the struggles of an OFW: the pain of separation, the constant anxiety every time a lovedone got sick back home,” Mendrado says. “It’s good to be working in your own hometown where you can always see your family after a day’s work.” Mendrado’s wife, Menchie, works as a daycare worker in one of the schools supported by MMDC. Menchie is one of MMDC’s 17 volunteer teachers assigned to different public schools whose monthly salary is partly subsidized by the company. In the community, MMDC’s livelihood programs are built around existing potentials of both human and natural resources to ensure sustainability. A continuing project that began in 2017, for instance, MMDC allocated over PHP3.1 million to train and provide seed capital for abaca, falcata, coconut, and cacao growers in Cantilan and Carrascal towns. Falcata grower Emalyn Antad says she stands to earn P3 million when her one-hectare plantation is ready for harvest four years from now. Antad, 51, estimates that for 80 fullgrown trees, a grower can expect a profit of P150,000. Each hectare has a total of 2,500 planted falcata seedlings. “So imagine if I even have a 90 percent survival rate, I could be a millionaire four years from now,” she says with a hearty laugh. RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP MMDC’s effort to establish sustainable livelihood programs does not end with giving families and community organizations a leg up in terms of capital, capacity-building, and technical assistance. More importantly, the company seeks to build its environmental programs around the economic potentials of mined-out areas to create communityrun enterprises that would last beyond MMDC’s mine life. One such project is the company’s fiveyear Bamboo Plantation Development Program, primarily geared toward creating a bamboo-based industry that will benefit mining communities. “I thought I would land a job planting bamboos after the training. I never realized I’m now an entrepreneur myself,” 41-year old Helen Custoya, a mother of five, says during the sidelines of the Proper Bamboo Plantation Establishment and Management on July 4 to 6, 2018. Custoya is one of 20 residents of Brgy. Panikian, Carrascal town, who
Scholar Rey Mark Cornejo feeling positively proud and accomplished for fulfilling his dream of finishing college and landing on a job he loves and enjoys, through MMDC’s scholarship.
MEET THE GUIRALS. Mendrado and Menchie Guiral pose outside their home with their children Helen Mechelle, 16, Melchor Dave, 13, Mark Julius, 10, Angela, 9, Chermen, 4 and Chiester, 3.Truly, the Gurial family is a living testimony of how responsible mining can change lives and empower families.
‘We shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that we can do for our fellowmen, we must do it now, for we shall not pass this way again.’ —Stephen Grellet organized themselves under the Pili Kawajan Association (PKJ) that will manage the 10-hectare model bamboo plantation. Jose Dagala, MMDC Vice President for Social Commitments, said the company has initially set aside 45 hectares of mined-out areas for its bamboo-based rehabilitation program. The area currently has over 19,976 bamboo seedlings planted. “First we organize them and teach them how to plan and establish a bamboo plantation, then we conduct skills training for them to effectively manage their business and generate profits,” Dagala said. Dagala said more trainings are scheduled to provide the association the necessary knowledge and skills on manufacturing. “The association will then employ the tools and skills they have obtained from training and technical assistance provided by Marcventures to produce mambo-based products--and earn,” he said. As the association’s president, Custoya vowed to rally her members for them to succeed. “After all, we will be the ones who will benefit and our earnings can greatly help complement the incomes of our husbands,” she said. Custoya described the bamboo livelihood training as “enlightening,” saying only then she realized the essential environmental functions of bamboos. “Bamboos help prevent landslides because its strong roots hold the soil firmly during rainy days. I’ve never known the enormous economic and environmental benefits of bamboos before the training,” the PKJ president said.
Falcata project beneficiary Emalyn Anta is all smiles while posing beside a growing falcata tree.
Since it began commercial operations in 2012, MMDC has rehabilitated over 230 hectares of mined-out areas and planted over 434,500 seedlings. ‘KATAS NG MINA’ Being a responsible steward also means being a responsible corporate citizen--and for MMDC that means paying the right taxes to enable the delivery of basic services at the local level. On top of national taxes, MMDC and other mining firms pay real property tax, local business tax, Mayor’s Permit fee, regulatory and administrative fees, and Occupation Fees. In Cantilan town, Mayor Philip Pichay estimates that MMDC—the town’s lone large-scale mining firm —brings in an average of P20 million in local taxes every year, twice the municipality’s annual tax collection. At a money in circulation turnover of about 4X Mayor Pichay, a former SGV and multinational executive, estimates that the inflows actual generate P80 million for Cantilan. “Taxes from mining help us build new roads and infrastructure, and the economic benefits we get in the form of jobs for our residents, as well as increased business activity, are
undoubtedly crucial for our growth,” Mayor Pichay said at the height of moves by then Environment Sec. Gina Lopez to close down majority of the country’s mines. In Carrascal, where MMDC is one of the town’s three nickel mines, the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) said mining taxes and other fees contributed an average of P198 million annually. The town is known for its “Katas ng Mina” signages, plastered on vital public facilities such as hospitals, a spanking Munici;ap Hall, cemented roads and even free prescription glasses for Seniors that mining taxes from all other miners pay for . “Katas ng Mina”--a mark that will last for many years for locals to remember that once upon a time, responsible mining has brought positive impact on their on their town and on their lives. This is happening already all over the place where MMDC is doing its mine. And this is the mark that MMDC strives to leave for future generations. As Alcantara quotes Stephen Grellet, “We shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that we can do for our fellowmen, we must do it now, for we shall not pass this way again.”
Marcventures is making Bamboo the centerpiece of its mining rehabilitation program after a year of planning, soil testing and planting.
Photos showing Marcventures’ benching and progressive rehabilitation.
Manila Standard Special Report on Mining: Nickel for September 11, 2018. From the pioneer and authority in supplements.