METALLIC MINERALS production fell 14.4% by value to P53.88 billion in the first half due to disrupted mining operations during the pandemic, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.

In a report, the MGB said direct-shipping nickel ore and its products such as mixed nickel-cobalt and scandium oxalate accounted for 44.8% of the total or P24.13 billion, followed by gold at 41.5% or P22.12 billion, and copper at 13.5% or P7.19 billion, and silver and chromite at less than 1% or P430 million.

The MGB said the gold industry saw a 26% increase in global market prices to $1,647.44 per troy ounce in the first half of 2020, compared to $1,307.36 a year earlier.

“Market analysts believed that gold prices would continue to go up given the current world economic situation,” the MGB said.

Gold is regarded as a safe-haven investment during crises.

Nickel prices in the first six months rose 1.3% year on year to $12,473.17 per ton, while copper prices fell 10.8% to $5,496.36 per ton.

By volume, nickel fell 27.7% to 102,310 metric tons (MT).

The MGB said all nickel producers posted declines in production by value except for Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., Adnama Mining Resources, Inc., SR Metals, Inc., Agata Mining Ventures, Inc., Carrascal Mining Corp., and Marcventures Mining and Development Corp.

Palawan led all nickel-producing provinces with production of 31,123 MT, followed by Agusan del Norte at 25,321 MT, Surigao del Norte at 21,358 MT, Surigao del Sur at 15,724 MT, Dinagat Island at 6,918 MT, and Zambales at 1,865 MT.

“We expect, however, that production in the Surigao provinces and Dinagat Island will at least pick up or improve in the coming months since weather conditions will be more apt for mining operations,” the MGB said.

Production of mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide fell 4.6% to 25,306 MT with an estimated value of P14.22 billion.

Surigao del Norte-based Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. accounted for 59% or 14,867 MT while Coral Bay Nickel Corp. in Palawan was responsible for 41% or 10,440 MT.

Gold production fell 26.7% to 8,246 kilograms with a value of P22.12 billion.

Philippine Gold Processing Refining Corp. in Masbate was the top gold producer, accounting for 35% or 2,909 kilograms and followed by Mindanao Mineral Processing and Refining Corp. in Agusan del Sur with 18% or 1,454 kilograms.

Copper production was led by Cebu-based Carmen Copper Corp. at 24,572 MT, followed by Philex Mining Corp. at 6,142 MT, and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. at 316 MT.

The MGB said the performance of the metallic minerals sector was affected by the slowdown in economic activity, pandemic-disrupted mining operations, and unstable global prices.

The MGB said that as of July 8, it has utilized P364.41 million of the funding for mining companies’ Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), assisting mining communities affected by COVID-19.

The MGB issued a memorandum on March 27 that permitted the realignment of the program’s unutilized funds for the provision of personal protective equipment and other items to medical personnel and affected families. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave