Nickel output picks up as prices soar

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    Total nickel production this year will be steady at the range of 40 to 45 million wet metric tons (WMT) as industry turns bullish from an earlier projection of a decline in output this year.

    The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) said several mines have doubled production in the second half of the year to take advantage of good metal prices.

    Isidro Alcantara, PNIA board member, told reporters in a virtual briefing yesterday Philippine nickel ore production has been at the range of 40 to 45 million WMT since 2018.

    The price per ton of nickel in the London Metal Exchange has reached $16,052.63 yesterday compared to the $10,859.65 per ton at the start of the year.

    Alcantara expressed optimism this trend will spill over until next year.

    “Prices may continue to be good next year especially after China reported a 4.9 percent GDP growth in the third quarter. That is a very encouraging news for us because nickel is an important product for them,” Alcantara added.

    China is currently the biggest buyer of nickel in the world which is used to produce stainless steel, batteries, kitchen wares, mobile phones, medical equipment, transport equipment, buildings, power generation and jewelry.

    Alcantara said miners can step up production especially since even low-grade limonites have become sellable.

    The soaring price of nickel in the world market has been triggered by the second implementation of an ore exports ban by Indonesia, the largest producer of nickel ore. The country first implemented such ban in 2014 and was lifted last year but was re-imposed at the start of 2020.

    Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed total nickel ore production rose by one percent last year as it hit 26,212,124 dry metric tons (DMT) from the previous 25,922,748 DMT. Likewise, its total value jumped by 11 percent to P31.65 billion last year from 2018’s P28.61 billion.