Philex Mining Corp. is seeking a partner to venture into nickel mining, a top executive said Wednesday.

“This is our first time to go into nickel. We’ve been in the copper-gold production for a long time. That’s why it is imperative for us to get a partner who knows nickel mines,” Philex president and chief executive Eulalio Austin Jr. said at the Mining Philippines International Conference and Exhibition at EDSA Shangri-La Manila in Mandaluyong City.

He also disclosed that Philex was in talks to acquire the old Dizon mines in Zambales province.

Austin said that on its $2-billion copper-gold project in Mindanao, the company expects to release an updated prefeasibility study (PFS) to present a solid offer for investors. He said the initial findings of the updated PFS might be released as early as the fourth quarter of 2023.

“Hopefully with that, we will be able to see the revised figures based on current prices, revenues and cost. We believe that the financials will definitely be a lot better than the 2013 PFS,” he said.

Austin said this year saw a marked increase in global gold prices which hit the $1,900-per-ounce mark, higher than $1,250/oz estimate in the 2013 PFS. Copper prices are now at $380/oz, also higher than in the past decade.

Philex is looking for a strategic partner for Silangan mine as demand for copper increased three-fold, supported by electric vehicle (EV) and EV battery production.

Meanwhile, Philex chairman Manuel Pangilinan underscored the contribution of mining to the economy, saying it enables green technology to flourish, creates jobs, brings revenues and provides additional benefits that uplift the lives and promote the welfare of the people, particularly in far-flung areas.

“I would then argue that in many respects, sustainability rests on green technology, and by extension, reliance on mining would continue,” he said.

Pangilinan said the migration from fossil fuel to electric vehicles would be impossible without metals. “Beyond minerals, mining means jobs and incomes for our people, especially since mines are typically located in rural areas, where poverty exists and jobs are scarce,” he said.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual also noted the significant contribution of the mining industry. “Mining is not just an extraction process that leaves behind a barren landscape. It is a means of converting our natural resources into valuable assets that can power the engines of our economy, create jobs and lay the foundation for infrastructural advancements that will benefit not just our generation but those to come,” Pascual said.

He said the DTI is aggressively promoting the development of the green metals sector as a major contributor to the economy.

“As part of our commitment, the Department of Trade and Industry firmly pushes for the development of the green metals sector by advocating for value-added downstream mineral activities in the segment of battery precursor production used for electric vehicles batteries and battery energy storage system,” he said.

He said companies may invest in the Philippines exploration of mineral resources; green metals processing; battery precursor production and end-user industries.

The Mining Philippines Conference and Exhibition gathered industry leaders, experts and stakeholders to discuss the future of mining in the Philippines. – Othel V. Campos