Nickel Asia opens plant in Surigao del Norte

MANILA, Philippines – The country's largest nickel producer opens a processing plant in Surigao del Norte. The investment is a welcome development to the country’s struggling mining industry.

Judith Balea reports.

Script below: 

It's the single largest investment in the mining industry today.

Nickel Asia inaugurates its processing plant near its Taganito mine in Surigao del Norte.

Its Japanese partners are pouring in 1.6 billion dollars for the plant to produce high-value nickel from low-grade ore.

YOSHIAKI NAKAZATO, PRES., SUMITOMO METAL MINING: This facility will produce 30,000 tons of nickel and… cobalt per year. This project contributes significantly to economic growth of the Philippines.

The plant starts operations after a rebel attack 2 years ago.

That delayed its construction and pushed up costs.

Nickel Asia president Gerard Brimo says it will boost the company's earnings as nickel prices start to bottom out.

GERARD BRIMO, PRES., & CEO, NICKEL ASIA: There are two things that will help us about this plant equity accounting of the plant itself and increase in shipments of ore of our 60% subsidiary Taganito Mining.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says the new plant is proof of the trust and confidence of foreign investors in the country.

MAR ROXAS, DILG SECRETARY: This facility, the second of its kind in the country, is considered single largest foreign direct investment in the mining industry today, amounting to P65.8 billion. It will also strengthen the Philippines' foothold as a vital source of transition metals in the international market.

The Philippines is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world, but these have been largely untapped.

Environmentalists and the Catholic Church have strongly opposed mining projects following several accidents that wrought damage to nearby communities.

In 2012, President Benigno Aquino issued a mining policy banning new contracts, sending the industry on a free fall. 

Most investors, especially foreigners, are holding on to their purses as a new revenue-sharing scheme is in the works in Congress. 

The mining industry struggles with political risks, but a silver lining remains. 

Judith Balea, Rappler Surigao del Norte.

Rappler.com