MANILA, Philippines – Concern over the new Philippine government’s mining policies is helping drive global nickel prices to nearly one-year highs, the local industry association said Friday.
Staunch mining critic Gina Lopez, President Rodrigo Duterte’s environment secretary, has suspended the operations of several nickel mines while also stopping the approval of all new mining projects.
The Philippines is the world’s top supplier of nickel ore and the main shipper to China, the biggest market for the commodity.
“The price movement now is only because of the (minister’s) pronouncements. It threatens the future of a lot of mining projects already in the pipeline,” Chamber of Mines of the Philippines official Ronald Recidoro told the Agence France-Presse.
Nickel ore is a raw material for nickel, which is used to make stainless steel.
Bloomberg reported Friday that nickel extended gains to an 11-month high due to concern over supply disruption. The metal is up 22% this year, recovering from a 42% slump in 2015.
On Wednesday, Lopez ordered top producer Nickel Asia to stop a subsidiary from exporting its nickel ore stockpiles from its mine on Manicani island in the central Philippines. (READ: Eastern Samar residents protest nickel hauling in Manicani Island)
“Our audit shows they are taking too much soil which goes to China,” she said.
The subsidiary, Hinatuan Mining Corp., released a statement clarifying it had not been mining in the area since the late 1990s and was now only selling off its old stockpiles.
In a department order released to AFP, Lopez also ordered an audit of all mines to ensure they met global standards.
She said she would also push for a new law ensuring the Philippines derives more revenue from mining instead of the countries where the raw materials are shipped for processing.
“I don’t want to fight against the mining industry but … our people must not suffer because of business interests,” she said.
Recidoro, the mining chamber’s vice president for legal and policy affairs, said these statements sparked fears about future supply.
“We’re worried when she says she equates mining with suffering. We don’t think that’s accurate.”
Recidoro said nickel mines expect to pass Lopez’s audit, but the industry is concerned about future exports.
“We need a steady inflow of new mining projects to sustain our output, and I think that’s what will be under threat.” – Rappler.com