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The role of science and technology in improving the outlook of mining

In an effort to bridge the knowledge gap and connect industry experts, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), in partnership with the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), launched the first of four Digging Deeper Professional Lecture Series on March 27. With a theme, “Making Choices: A Roadmap for Value-Adding in the Mining Industry”, COMP and PCIEERD aim to address pressing environmental and technical issues confronting the mining industry through science and technology, and identify possible research projects in line with the council’s iron and steel roadmap. Industry leaders, science and technology experts, and the academe attended the program.

The rapid development of the Philippines and continuous growth of the Southeast Asian region has resulted in higher demand for iron and steel products domestically and regionally. Economic expectations are positively high with the construction sector driving growth and demand for steel products to supply private residential and office buildings and infrastructure spending by the government. From 2010 to 2013, the country’s apparent steel consumption (ASC) increased from 4.1 to 6.6 million metric tons. Experts estimate the country’s ASC to grow to 20 million tons by 2030.

Unfortunately, the Philippines lacks a robust iron and steel industry. While Philippine-based iron and steel manufacturers have expanded their production capacities in the long product sector, the industry still falls short of domestic demand, mainly because of the absence of an integrated steel mill (ISM).

To touch on the matter, the lectures focused on three topics: iron and steel industry roadmap, ironmaking technology technical and economic study, and policy directions on the mining industry.

Iron and steel industry roadmap

Chief Reynaldo Lignes from the Bureau of Investments presented the 2014 Iron and Steel Industry Roadmap and the current production capacity of the industry. On the average, Filipinos consume about 90 kilograms of iron and steel and demand is expected to increase. However, only one mining company operates an ironmaking facility.

“We have all the capabilities to produce the kind of products that our construction industry needs”, says Engr. Federico Monsada, Chief of Minercon International, Inc. Feasibility study on ironmaking technology Regarding capabilities, Director Agustin Fudolig of Metals Industry Research and Development Center and Engr. Juancho Pablo Calvez of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau shared results of the technical and economic pre-feasibility study to determine the most suitable ironmaking technology for value-adding of magnetite resources. According to the study, the RKEF-BOF is the only ironmaking technology that makes sure entirely of magnetite iron sand as raw material source. Aside from iron production, recovery of Vanadium-rich slag plays a critical role in the economic feasibility of setting up an RKEF-BOF facility.

The pre-feasibility study identified the potential of the iron and steel industry. But one hurdle needs to be addressed. Dr. Carlo Arcilla of UP National Institute of Geological Sciences summed up the reason for the absence of steel industry in the country.

“The main reason why steel industry is not in the Philippines – very high power cost”, Dr. Arcilla
emphasizes.

Power cost in the Philippines is one of the highest in the region and it affects investment potential of the country. On the average, a median Filipino family allots 10 percent of their take home pay to electricity consumption.

Policy directions on mining

Another important discussion focused on the policies and regulations that directly affects mining operations in the Philippines. Currently, there is an outstanding moratorium on open pit mining and the cancellation of 75 MPSAs is still in place. Engr. Larry Heradez reiterated the mining policy and direction of the Department of Natural Resources (DENR), as mandated by President Rodrigo Duterte – responsible mining operations.

Dr. Graciano Yumul, APEX Mining Co. Executive Vice President, summarized the implications of policies and regulations imposed by the DENR: (1) open pit mining moratorium makes investor wary (2) increased taxation may result to closure of mining companies (3) PMRB promulgations create conflicting decisions (4) misconceptions on environmental issues associated with industry.

Engr. Artemio Disini, Chairman of Sulu Sea Minerals Management Corporation, stressed that experts and leaders of the industry should work together to move forward mining in the Philippines.

This lecture series is one of the ways to provide a venue for stakeholders to come together and find solutions that will contribute to the improvement of mining technologies and processes.

If you want to be part of #DiggingDeeper lecture series as a participant or as a speaker, please call (02) 6354123 or send an email to info@chamberofmines.com.ph. ###