Celsius Resources is a major beneficiary of the decision by the Philippines to lift a nine-year ban on new mining developments in the country in an effort to boost economic recovery from the pandemic.
The Philippines Government’s lifting of the ban by an executive order in April from President Rodrigo Duterte followed the March quarter completion by the Perth-based Celsius of a portfolio of advanced copper-gold projects in the country.
Celsius executive director Blair Sergeant acknowledges that the Philippines has suffered in terms of being a mining investment destination, at least in the minds of Australian investors, because of the ban on new mines.
“But we’ve always thought that was misguided because while there have been a few Australian companies that have had a few missteps in the country over the years, often it has reflected a lack of understanding of the jurisdiction in which they are operating,” Sergeant tells Australian Resources & Investment.
“Now there has been a fundamental shift in the attitude of the government, we intend to build one or more new copper-gold mines on the back of the portfolio of assets that we acquired. Quite clearly the executive order clearly paves the way for us to do that.
“So we are now moving the assets up the development curve as quickly as is practically possible. Now that the decrees have been issued, the path is very clear for us in terms of our ability and the government’s willingness to facilitate new mining titles being granted.”
The Filipino projects were acquired under a deal, first announced in September 2020, with a private United Kingdom company, Anleck. All of the properties were once explored by United States copper giant Freeport-McMoRan.
The flagship MCB copper project is located 320 kilometres north of Manila. A maiden resource estimate was announced in January 2021 – 313 million tonnes grading 0.48 per cent copper and 0.15 grams a tonne (g/t) of gold for 1.5 million tonnes of contained copper and 1.47 million ounces of gold.
The MCB deposit includes a high-grade core of 93.7 million tonnes grading 0.8 per cent copper and 0.28g/t gold, which is the focus of a scoping study into a development, with the study due to be completed in the September 2021 quarter.
“Because Freeport spent more than $45 million collectively on the portfolio, including $15 million on MCB itself, we are pretty confident the scoping study numbers will be relatively robust,” Sergeant says.
“We are further down the track than the market appreciates. It reflects the fact that Freeport spent so much time and money on MCB and the other assets. We get the benefit of that as we move this up the development curve.”
An earlier focus of the company – the Opuwo cobalt and copper project in Namibia – continues to be assessed in parallel with the flagship copper-gold assets in the Philippines.
Opuwo’s mineral resource estimate was more than doubled in July 2021 to 225.5 million tonnes grading 0.12 per cent cobalt and 0.43 per cent copper.
“We are still assessing its technical and economic merit so as to inform the board as the best way forward. But we’re certainly like what we are seeing so far,’’ Sergeant says.
By Barry Fitzgerald
This story also appears in the August issue of Australian Resources & Investment.