THE country’s metal production value fell 10.69% to P24.86 billion in the first quarter from a year earlier as some mining operations were halted amid a coronavirus pandemic, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

In a statement on Friday, the bureau traced the lackluster start mainly to zero production at the Didipio gold project of OceanaGold Phils. Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya, one of the country’s major mines.

Gold led the total metal mineral production value with a 43% share at P10.66 billion, followed by direct-shipping nickel ore and mixed nickel cobalt sulfide at 41% or P10.29 billion, copper at 15% or P3.69 billion, and combined silver and chromite output with 0.9% or P221.31 million.

The price of gold rose 21.5% year on year to $1,584.17 per troy ounce, while nickel price went up by 2.9% to $12,739.72 a ton.

Gold output fell by 27.5% year on year to 4,098 kilos, while silver went down by a quarter to 6,335 kilos.

“The Masbate Gold Project of Filminera Mining Corp. and the Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corp. in Masbate was at the forefront with 1,396 kilograms valued at P3.61 billion, accounting for 34% of the country’s total gold mine output,” MGB said.

The production of nickel content of ore fell 27% from a year earlier to 28,006 metric tons, it said.

Palawan-based Coral Bay Nickel Corp. and Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. in Surigao del Norte, the only hydrometallurgical nickel processing plants in the country, both reported a combined total value of P7.75 billion.

Meanwhile, copper metal equivalent output in the first quarter fell by 17.1% to 16,035 metric tons, the bureau said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. Metro Manila remains under an altered lockdown, although some businesses have been allowed to reopen with minimal workforce.

On May 13, MGB released guidelines letting mining companies resume their operations at full capacity as long as they follow safety measures. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave