MANILA, Philippines — Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp. plans to secure partners as it ventures into nickel mining in Zambales to ride the tide amid the global push to transition to clean energy.

On the sidelines of the Mining Philippines conference, Philex president and CEO Eulalio Austin said the company is looking into the nickel space through a nickel property in Zambales on top of developing its copper and gold mine sites.

“We are also looking into the nickel space considering that the transition to this green energy is a global issue right now and…because we have a nickel property in Zambales that was not put into operations for so long and we are trying to review that now,” he said.

The Zambales property is a greenfield nickel development under a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) issued during the Ramos administration.

“The property is just an application. It took us some time to perfect the exploration permit. It’s an old FTAA, it’s an old application,” Austin said.

This is the first time Philex, which has been in the gold and copper business for a long time, has ventured into mining and this will require tapping partners for technical assistance.

“For (the) nickel (property) in Zambales, for a neophyte, for sure we will be asking for some guidance or having a partner to develop that property since we are not experts… the direction is to get partners that will teach us to mine nickel,” Austin said.

In the same event, Philex chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan stressed that mining would enable the shift to clean and renewable energy.

The industry has an important role in the production of e-vehicles (EVs) and batteries as these will require nickel, graphite, aluminum, and copper to constitute their metal bodies and batteries.

Solar panels and wind farms need steel, arsenic, gallium, germanium, indium, and tellurium.

Wind turbines, on the other hand, need aluminum and several rare earth compounds to make their generators lighter and more efficient.

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

The exploration of the Zambales property is on top of its existing Padcal mine operations, the development of the Silangan copper-gold mine in Surigao del Norte, and the potential development of the Macawiwili gold mining project in Itogon, Benguet.

The Padcal mine’s life was extended until 2027 after confirmatory drilling yielded additional mineable reserves of copper and gold.

Philex signed a term sheet with Macawiwili Gold Mining and Development Co. Inc. to explore the joint development of the latter’s gold mining project under an 800-hectare area under its mineral production sharing agreement.

For the Silangan project, the company set an initial investment of $224 million for the first phase of its development, which will commence operations in 2025.

The first phase of the project covers the Boyongan deposit,which has a mine life of 28 years and will take two and a half years to develop.

It will produce around 2,000 tons of ore per day and this will be gradually ramped up to 12,000 tons a day or four million tons a year by the 12th year of operations. – Danessa Rivera