By Chino S. Leyco
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the government’s studying the impact on the local mining industry of Indonesia’s ban on its nickel-ore exports.
Environment Undersecretary Analiza R. Teh said the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is currently drafting a roadmap that should help nickel miners along with gold and copper mines in enhancing their operations in country.
Teh said the DENR already requested the Department of Trade and Industry (BTI) as well as its attached agency, Board of Investments (BOI), to present a mining industry roadmap.
“There’s already a discussion which we have to pursue so we can take this opportunity for the mining industry,” Teh said at the mining conference yesterday in Pasay City when asked how the Philippines can take advantage of Indonesia’s ban on nickel-ore exports.
The DENR, however, said that the Department of Finance (DOF) has “some questions” regarding the proposed roadmap that they hope to address in the next MICC meeting.
“Definitely, the government is pursuing the discussion and what we need to undertake is to sit-down with the chamber to revisit that roadmap and get their inputs to enhance that roadmap,” she said.
Teh, meanwhile, said that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has recommended lifting the suspension of a small-sized nickel miner, one of several ore producers ordered in 2016 to halt operations in an industry-wide crackdown.
The MGB recommended that Zambales Diversified Metals Corp – one of two nickel subsidiaries of DMCI Mining Corp. – be allowed to resume mining operations, Teh said.
The DENR lifted the suspension order on DMCI Mining’s other nickel subsidiary, Berong Nickel Corp., in November last year. The Philippines was the world’s second-largest producer of nickel ore in 2018, selling most of its output to top buyer China. In 2020, when last year’s top producer Indonesia is due to ban its ore exports, China is expected to rely mainly on nickel ore from the Philippines, according to analysts.
DMCI Mining, a unit of DMCI Holdings Inc, had said in March that it expected 2019 to be a tough year, with one of its two mines still suspended and its inventory almost depleted.
The Berong and Zambales mines, two of more than 30 nickel ore producers in the Philippines, in recent years accounted for less than 5% of the nation’s output of the material, which is used in stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries.
Teh said the DENR has also lifted the suspension order against Carrascal Nickel Corp, but five other suspended mines – mostly nickel ore producers – have yet to comply fully with the requirements that would allow them to operate.
Teh said the MGB has also recommended lifting a suspension order issued against iron ore miner Strong Built Mining Development Corp.
Philippine nickel ore production rose three percent in the first half of 2019, but output was capped as half of the country’s nickel mines were closed for maintenance or environmental reasons.
In 2016, the DENR, then headed by a staunch anti-mining advocate, ordered several mines shut in a crackdown on miners as part of a push to ramp up environmental protection. (With Reuters)