mining industry

Australian miner, Filipino firm end court battle over $2-B Davao Oriental mining project

Ferdinand Zuasola
Australian miner, Filipino firm end court battle over $2-B Davao Oriental mining project
The settlement allows the Filipino-owned Asiaticus Management Corporation to pursue a $2-billion mining project in Davao Oriental alone or with a new foreign partner

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Australia’s BHP Group Limited, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, and its counterpart in Davao Oriental, Asiaticus Management Corporation (AMCOR), ended their protracted legal battle in the Philippines and abroad with a multimillion-dollar settlement.

The settlement would allow AMCOR to pursue a $2-billion mining project in Davao Oriental province alone or with a new foreign partner.

The two companies found themselves going to the courts in the Philippines and Singapore more than a decade ago after AMCOR canceled its joint venture contract with the mining giant for the Pujada Bay mining project in Mati City in Davao Oriental in 2007.

Formerly known as BHP Billiton, the Melbourne-based mining company was the world’s biggest in 2017, while AMCOR is a consortium of the Austral-Asi Link Mining Corporation and Hallmark Mining Corporation. AMCOR holds the right over a 17,000-hectare mining concession area in Davao Oriental.

AMCOR’s concession area covers areas within the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, the first and only UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site in Mindanao, and parts of the Pujada Bay Seascape and Landscape which has been declared as among the world’s most beautiful bays.

“The legal battle between AMCOR and our foreign partner BHP Billiton is over,” Dr. Arvin Carlom, AMCOR manager, said over the weekend. 

Carlom said the settlement cost AMCOR $20 million to refund BHP for its investment in the Davao Oriental mining project.

The settlement came after opposite rulings on the case by courts in the Philippines and Singapore.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre, a United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruled in favor of BHP’s case against AMCOR’s arbitrary cancellation of its contract with the mining giant on July 25, 2007.

AMCOR’s act had resulted in the freezing of the Pujada nickel project in Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental.

AMCOR, however, secured a favorable ruling from a Philippine court about the same case that reached the Court of Appeal (CA).

“With the two different rulings, the two mining companies just agreed to an amicable settlement. The $20 million was a refund for the investment of BHP Billiton. Now, we (AMCOR) are operating on our own,” said Carlom.

But Carlom said AMCOR has started negotiations for a possible partnership with Japanese and Chinese groups that were interested in nickel extraction because of high demands in Japan and China.

“When it comes to nickel processing, the Philippines does not have the technology yet. The technologies are not owned by Filipinos. So, to put up a nickel processing plant, we need to have partners. That is why we are now talking to prospective foreign partners,” he said.

But just as AMCOR made its presence felt in Davao Oriental again, environmental activists and local Catholic leaders have mobilized and warned of mass actions to pressure the government into stopping the mining company from resuming and expanding its operations.

The Catholic Diocese of Mati has started a signature campaign against mining activities in the province.

Carlom, however, said those opposed to AMCOR’s operations need not worry because the firm’s mining activities were 5.8 kilometers from a buffer zone of Mount Hamuiguitan. 

He also said AMCOR’s operations would be confined to 10,000 of its 17,000-hectare concession area at Mount Hamiguitan “because we value that jewel.” –

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