MANILA, Philippines — Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp. is now looking for potential investors for the company’s $2-billion Silangan copper and gold project as the government is leaning towards lifting the open-pit ban issued by former environment chief Gina Lopez.

While the open pit ban has not been lifted, Philex Mining president and chief executive officer Eulalio Austin Jr. said the company is scouting possible investors for Philex’s next big prospective mine in Surigao del Norte with an investment opportunity of P40 billion.

“We are starting the legwork on searching for investors. We are now gathering a pool, which will be the possible investors and financiers. We are looking for equity investors,” Austin told The STAR on sidelines of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines briefing Monday.

He added that the lifting of the ban would fasttrack the search for potential investors and would encourage more investors to put in their money for the gold and copper project.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) are now discussing the lifting of the ban. The MGB maintained that the ban has no legal basis and was not mandated by any mining law.

“It will help improve the value of the project. We are granted an income tax holiday and the longer it will be delayed, the more we lose on the opportunity,” Austin said.

Philex is already working on attaching the pre-feasibility study of the underground mining to the definitive feasibility study of the open pit mining.

“First project is open pit then after mining for 10 years, we do underground. We are now trying to maximize the value of the asset, the value if we add underground. Investors would definitely ask that,” Austin said.

The Philex chief also thumbed down the latest proposed bill in Congress that may require mining firms to obtain a legislative franchise before they begin operations.

The bill also proposes the shortening of the duration of mineral agreements from 25 years to 10 years.

“In my thinking, it cannot be. We have vested rights, we have an MPSA (mineral production sharing agreement) that is approved already and that is a binding contract,” Austin said.

“The worry is if once the MPSA expires, assuming the bill will be approved, we don’t know if we will be covered. In the MPSA, once your MPSA expires, you are given the privilege to renew it for another 25 years. Shortening that would mean violating the contract,” he added.

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