Philippine mining regulator cautious on nickel prices – by Erik dela Cruz (Reuters U.S. – April 27, 2015)

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MANILA – (Reuters) – The Philippines’ mining industry regulator said on Monday two new nickel mines would help boost production of the country’s top metal export this year, but prices may remain weak amid tepid demand from top consumer China.

The Southeast Asian country was last year’s biggest nickel ore supplier to China’s producers of nickel pig iron, used in stainless steel production, after previous top supplier Indonesia banned exports of unprocessed metallic minerals.

Leo Jasareno, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said nickel output this year should rise with the entry of the Libjo and Agata mines in the south.

“These new nickel mining projects are expected to boost the 2015 nickel production of the country, with the expected mine output of Libjo and Agata about 714,000 dry metric tons and 1,360,000 dry metric tons respectively,” he said in a statement.

Average nickel prices rose 11.6 percent last year to $7.56 per pound, boosting the value of the country’s overall metallic output to a record high 137.53 billion pesos ($3.1 billion), MGB data released on Monday showed.

Nickel accounted for 58 percent, or nearly 80 billion pesos, of overall output last year. In terms of volume, nickel direct shipping ore rose 20 percent to 30.2 million dry metric tons while mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide jumped 91 percent to 87,280 dry metric tons.

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