Have Nickel As Saudis Have Oil
Richard Mills, Chairman
It wasn’t so long ago that
politicians weren’t very enthusiastic to be associated with the
controversial mining industry. How times have changed and none more so than
Today, mineral resource
development has become a “key-driver” of the economy. From now until
2010, the industry is expected to create 30,000 jobs and investments are
projected to reach US$10B. For a country that attracted less than US$2B in
foreign direct investment across all sectors just 2 years ago, this is
clearly the biggest opportunity there is for the country.
In a recent speech in Shanghai,
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo spoke glowingly of her country’s
massive mineral resources. Valued at US$1 Trillion, Philippines is
considered the Number 5 mineral power in the world because of them.
In nickel, which holds special interest for the Chinese, Philippines is
especially flush. The president believes
her country holds the largest nickel reserves in the world. “The
Philippines is to nickel what Saudi Arabia is to oil,” she is quoted as
Some think that all this mineral
wealth is even starting to go to her head. There is talk that she wants to
control Philippine mineral wealth like the Saudis control their oil.
Recent political appointments to
key positions relating to mining seem to give a strong indication of the
government’s objective. Lito Atienza, a former mayor of Manila and a close
ally of Arroyo, was recently given the powerful secretary role at the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Another devoted political
supporter named Herherson Alvarez was placed in the chairman position of the
government-owned Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC). As the
country’s “minerals czar,” the former senator has vowed to make
Philippines a world mining leader by pushing for development of a large
number of non-performing and canceled mining tenements. On the same day as
the Alvarez announcement, responsibility for PMDC was transferred to the
Office of the President.
As a further bid for control,
President Arroyo promoted her own brother-in-law, Congressman Ignacio
Arroyo, to chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources in the House of
It might be said that the
political environment for mining has gone the full political circle. From
being an industry that no politician wanted to be associated with, it is now
considered important enough to attempt complete control.
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