Exclusive: Philippines allows suspended miners to ship out nickel ore after clampdown – by Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – March 24, 2017)


MANILA – The Philippines’ environment ministry has allowed eight suspended nickel ore miners to ship out stockpiles of mined ore, sources told Reuters, temporarily boosting supply from the world’s top exporter of the raw metal after a major crackdown.

More than half of all mines in the Philippines have been ordered to permanently shut to protect watersheds in an eight-month campaign led by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez.

Allowing the halted mines to sell their stocked nickel ore is aimed at limiting the potential build up of silt in nearby waters, an official with knowledge of the order said, rather than the government toning down its campaign.

The volume of nickel ore stocks from the mines may well exceed 1 million tonnes, or about a month’s worth of consumption by top buyer China, said the official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The total would likely be less than 5 million tonnes, he added.

Daniel Hynes, commodity strategist at ANZ Bank, said he did not expect the temporary boost in Philippine supply to be a big drag on nickel prices. “It certainly doesn’t remove the long-term issues around security of supply and the closures of other operations,” Hynes said.

Still, three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange CMNI3 fell 1 percent to $9,935 a ton by 0600 GMT, the biggest decliner among base metals on Friday. Nickel has lost more than 9 percent this month, following a 10 percent spike in February when Lopez ordered the mine closures.

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