Australian miner expresses interest in Diwalwal investment

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DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC) has received an expression of interest from an unidentified Australian miner as a possible first investor in the the Diwalwal Mineral Reservation Area (DMRA) in Mr. Diwata, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, which is intended to be a showcase for responsible mining practices and on-site ore processing.

“Very soon… Diwalwal will showcase responsible mining,” PMDC president and chief executive officer Alberto B. Sipaco, Jr., said. He added that the signing of an agreement between PMDC and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) will convert the 8,100-hectare DMRA into a mineral processing industry zone.

Mr. Sipaco said the company is currently negotiating with officials of the Australian firm. “They are willing to double the commitment fee to develop a six-by-six meter tunnel that will connect Victory Tunnel to Boston in Davao Oriental,” he added.

The government is eager to deter mining by small-scale operators who are less accountable when it comes to observing mining regulations, and also wants to extract ore value domestically from the country’s mineral wealth. By establishing a PEZA-accredited mineral processing plant in Diwalwal, he said, minerals can be processed locally into high-value products that can be exported.

Mr. Sipaco said the establishment of a mineral processing zone in Diwalwal will encourage investors to put up processing plants considering that raw materials are readily available

He said the development of the mining industry in Diwalwal will open up more economic opportunity, industrialize the gold industry, establish settlements in safe areas near the mining area and provide more funding for housing projects in the area. He said all these economic activities are expected to create revenue and tax opportunities for investors and the government.

“The timeline… will depend on how fast we can come up with the different aspects of the project; state mining means before we mine, we see to it that it is ripe for instituting measures and practices that would lead to responsible mining,” he said.

Mr. Sipaco said the company has identified about 150 hectares of land in Mt. Diwata where the investor can put up the gold refinery, gold processing plants and resorts in anticipation of more tourist arrivals in the area.

“We will make this project sustainable so that this will become a mining legacy for the area, Diwalwal being the gold find of the century,” he said.

While PMDC is banking on foreign partnerships to establish the mineral processing zone, it said it will not limit investment to foreign investors. “This is the condition I have given to investors who have signified their intention to invest in the area,” he added.

PMDC will lead the exploration and development of the gold-rush area. PMDC is a wholly owned and controlled government corporation 44% owned by the Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), 36% by the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) and 20% by the National Development Corp. (NDC). DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-38 designates PMDC as the agency’s implementing arm in undertaking mining and mineral processing operations in the DMRA.

“The focus of exploitation and development of the gold-rush area is still the major obligation of the national government and this responsibility encompasses many engagements crucial to the protection of many stakeholders,” he said. PMDC’s mission includes the development of hosting communities, ensuring better reach of corporate social responsibility, extending royalties to the Indigenous Peoples (IPs), protecting key watersheds and reservoirs from destruction, desilting riverways affected by destructive mining and raising public funds to develop infrastructures.

PEZA Director General Charito Plaza has said the declaration of the DMRA as a mineral processing zone area is in line with the pronouncement made by President Rodrigo R. Duterte during his State-of-the-Nation Address “to stop illegal mining and smuggling of raw minerals.”

She said minerals from Diwalwal are being smuggled out to Hong Kong, among other places. Inviting investors to set up processing plants in Diwalwal will help PMDC put a stop to illegal extraction and smuggling of gold. — Carmencita A. Carillo