The Philippines used to be known for its gold, silver, and copper, but a new element has taken the throne as the country’s top mineral product: nickel. As the world’s second-biggest supplier of nickel ore, the country exported 577,000 metric tons of it in 2016 and 2017 combined.
Last year’s nickel ore exports came in at 230,000 metric tons — a third less than the 2016 figure—but still raked in $455.21 million (P24.533 billion) for the country in 2017, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade.
That dollar figure shows the bright potential of the versatile element for the Philippine economy, perhaps even more than the precious metals mined elsewhere in the country.
In fact, the Philippines was the world’s top nickel producer in decades past, but the shifting local political landscape combined with environmental concerns forced it to lose ground to Indonesia. Our Southeast Asian neighbor has capitalized on our country’s current situation and kicked its production into high gear to feed the mineral-hungry economy of China.
It doesn’t mean that local nickel miners aren’t standing their ground, though. Thirty of the country’s 50 mining firms dig for nickel, and seven of them have formed a group — the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) — to help champion the sector as well as the broader concept of responsible and sustainable mining that gives back to its partner communities.
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