ASX-LISTED Indophil Resources hopes to list its shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange to win more local support for the long-delayed $5.9 billion Tampakan copper and gold mining project. Indophil owns 37.5% of Sagittarius Mines, the local operator for the Tampakan project in the southern province of South Cotabato, where a 2010 ban on open-pit mining has delayed development.
Tampakan is believed to be one of the biggest undeveloped copper and gold mines in South East Asia, and Sagittarius has already spent about $500 million on initial development.
A dual listing for Indophil may widen its Philippine investor base from about 30% currently. Its plan to list ‘by introduction’ in the Philippines would not involve an initial public offering.
Mining giant Glencore Xstrata Plc holds a 62.5% interest in Sagittarius, but in January this year it advised Indophil of its plan to sell its stake. Indophil said no formal divestment process has begun so far.
The project faces an uncertain future as long as its ownership remains in limbo, Indophil said. “Resolving the current ownership uncertainty and having a committed owner and project manager is the next crucial hurdle,” Indophil said in its annual report. “When this matter is resolved, we can offer greater clarity of purpose to all stakeholders.”
Glencore had earlier made it clear it has little appetite for spending billions on building new mines, and previously flagged it was reviewing the Tampakan holding along with a range of other big-ticket projects.
Exiting Tampakan would help Glencore meet a requirement to sell down copper stakes, a condition imposed by China before approving Glencore’s takeover of Xstrata last year. Beijing had feared the commodities firm would gain too much power in copper.
With Indophil holding a strategic pre-emptive right over Glencore Xstrata’s interest, Indophil has a considerable ‘say’ in any Tampakan divestment process. Indophil and its in-country alliance partners remain optimistic that the pathways for the development of Tampakan will be cleared and value for the shareholders will be restored. Indophil is partly owned by the Philippines’ most diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp and the country’s biggest miner Philex Mining Corp.
Discovered in 1992, the Tampakan project has a global resource of 2.94 billion tonnes containing an estimated 15 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold at a 0.2% copper cut-off grade. The mining project is estimated to have a 17-year lifespan with average planned annual production of 375,000 tonnes of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold. The mine was supposed to start operations by 2016, a target that has since been moved to 2019.