China Plays Ore Hopscotch as Southeast Asian Mining Slows – by Biman Mukherji (Wall Street Journal – September 22, 2016)

Environmental concerns among traditional suppliers have sent the massive importer further afield

As one of the world’s leading metal producers, China is running into a new problem acquiring the mineral ores it needs to churn out stainless steel and aluminum: concern for the environment.

Rising anti-mining sentiment rippling through Southeast Asia has led to a series of mine shutdowns that are helping push up prices for some crucial minerals. The latest threat to China’s ability to source minerals comes from the Philippines, the world’s top supplier of nickel ore.

The official in charge of overseeing Philippine mines, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, said Wednesday that a sweeping audit of the mining sector due out next week is likely to lead to the suspension of more than 10 metal-ore mines, around a quarter of the nation’s total. She had previously ordered operations halted at several nickel mines.

On Thursday, nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange shot up 1.6%. Prices are up by around 24% since the start of June, the month after Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned the mining industry to improve its environmental record, was elected president of the Philippines.

Environmental concerns are emerging as a rare booster for prices of some of the world’s important mineral ores. Nickel prices, for example, have been on a downward trend since 2011.

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