MANILA, March 31 (Reuters) – 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.