2020 nickel output up 3% but outlook remains uncertain

    A back hoe loads soil containing nickel-ore minerals into a barge in the mining town of Sta Cruz, Zambales. (Reuters Photo)

    Philipp ine nickel output rose 3 percent last year even as the COVID-19 pandemic hampered some projects, government data showed, but the Mines and Geosciences Bureau warned that the outlook for its minerals industry this year remained uncertain.

    Nickel output in the world’s biggest exporter of the material to top metal consumer China totaled 333,962 tons last year compared with 323,325 tons in 2019, government data showed.

    Only 18 of the 30 nickel mines in the Southeast Asian country reported output last year.

    “The outlook for 2021 for the minerals industry remains uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a threat to lives and livelihoods,” the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said in a statement.

    Quarantine restrictions had prompted mining companies to reduce working hours and manpower, it said.

    However, the agency expressed hopes that rising prices of nickel in the world market coupled with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines would encourage miners to restart and ramp up production, and pave the way for new projects to come on stream.

    Nickel ore supplies have been tight in China, which uses the material to produce nickel pig iron, a key ingredient in stainless steel, since top ore producer Indonesia banned exports from the start of last year.