Nickel market eyes Philippines as mine review delayed yet again

Rodrigo Duterte, president of Philippines, has led a crackdown on the country’s mining industry. (Photo: Presidential Communications – Government of the Philippines)

(Bloomberg) — The global nickel market will be kept in suspense even longer over the outlook for ore supplies from the Philippines after the country’s mining council again pushed back the deadline for completion of a review of 26 mines ordered shut or suspended last year.

Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the closures as part of a mining crackdown led by President Rodrigo Duterte. The new delay could mean the review won’t be ready before August, after an initial pledge to finish it by the end of last year. The miners have appealed the shutdowns and are still operational, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said Tuesday.

“All administrative and judicial remedies have to be exhausted for the orders to be final and executory,” Leones said in a phone interview. The appeals are being reviewed separately by the environment department and Duterte’s office.

The Philippines was the top exporter of nickel ore to China in the past four years after Indonesia imposed a ban on shipments in early 2014. Indonesia has partially eased the ban and its flow of cargoes expanded this year. Nickel has climbed 50 percent in the past two years as the world economy recovered.

The review by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council is now set to take six months instead of three, according to the Department of Finance. The first phase, which began in March and covers legal, technical and environmental concerns, will be finished in three months, while the social and economic aspects will take a further three, it said in a statement Tuesday.

The Philippines exported 29.1 million metric tons of nickel ore to China last year, down from 30.6 million tons in 2016, according to Chinese customs data.

(Written by Andreo Calonzo)