Philippines' nickel mining hub to suspend operations due to coronavirus
Mining operations in the Philippines’ southern province of Surigao del Norte, home to most of the country’s nickel mines, will be suspended from April 1 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, two mining companies said on Tuesday.
Nickel Asia Corp and Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Southeast Asian country’s two biggest nickel ore miners and exporters, said in separate statements that they received a copy of the suspension order dated March 28 from the provincial government.
The two miners account for more than half of the country’s nickel ore output.
Nickel Asia said the suspension order also covers the entry of foreign vessels to Surigao del Norte. The nearby province of Dinagat Islands, which also hosts nickel mines, has banned vessels shipping ore to China, local media has reported.
The Philippines is an alternative supply source of nickel ore for China, which relies mainly on higher-grade material from Indonesia. Ore from the Philippines is used to make nickel pig iron for the production of stainless steel.
Philippine nickel miners expect increased orders from China this year after Indonesia banned exports of unprocessed ore.
Nickel Asia said the suspension order may adversely affect the scheduled ore shipments of its two units, Taganito Mining Corp (TMC) and Hinatuan Mining Corp (HMC), and its revenue for the second quarter of 2020. It did not specify the shipment volumes.
“The impact of the temporary suspension of the operations of TMC and HMC to (Nickel Asia’s) overall business will depend on the duration of the...suspension,” it said, adding that in 2019, the two units accounted for 59% of its total nickel ore shipments.
Global Ferronickel said it is lowering its nickel ore shipment target this year to 5 million wet metric tonnes (wmt) from 6 million wmt, but it has made an appeal to the Surigao del Norte provincial government to allow them to continue operating.
“We’re hoping they will allow us because we follow the requirements of the 14-day quarantine protocol and have adopted post-quarantine measures to insulate our workers from COVID-19 infection,” Global Ferronickel President Dante Bravo told Reuters.
“It’s important that the export sector like us should be able to continue so that we lessen the impact to the economy,” he added, citing the taxes miners pay that can help augment government funds for emergency spending.