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Philex eyes underground operations for Silangan
Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp. is considering full underground operations for its $2-billion Silangan copper and gold project.
In an interview, Philex president and CEO Eulalio Austin Jr. said the company is looking at other options, which include removing the open pit method, as the government has yet to decide on whether or not it will keep the ban.
“We are looking at how we can maximize value by not doing open pit. We have back up options and we are studying that,” Austin told The Philippine Star.
The Silangan project, which may start production by late next year or early 2020, will originally conduct open pit mining for the first 10 years followed by the underground method.
Austin said Philex is still hopeful that the ban on open pit mining would be lifted.
“The study is still ongoing. We expect to have the initial results after nine weeks then we will present that to the board, then they will decide if we will push through with it even with the higher cost,” Austin said.
According to experts, open pit mining remains to be the most viable option as it is safer and more environmentally-friendly and financially sound.
The lifting of the open pit ban is expected to fasttrack the entry of possible investors for Philex’s next big prospective mine in Surigao del Norte which will require an investment P40 billion.
The Silangan project is seen to replace the Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet whose mine life is expected to end by December 2022.
The company has invested over P13 billion for the initial exploration and related works on the site as of the end of 2014, on top of the estimated project cost of about $1.2 billion.
By 2020, the Silangan project is forecast to generate P170 billion in revenues, P31 billion in national and local taxes and at least 8,000 employment opportunities for the first 10 years of operation.
Silangan is also expected to spend P6 billion over the same period for social development and infrastructure programs that will benefit Mindanao.
It is among the biggest prospective open-pit mines in the country.