Philippine nickel miner to expand to cash in on Indonesia export ban

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Marcventures Holdings Inc MARC.PS said on Tuesday it plans to develop and put a new mine into commercial operation by 2021, as the Philippine nickel ore producer seeks to take advantage of Indonesia's ban on exports of the raw material.

Indonesia has decided to stop nickel ore exports from Jan. 1, 2020, two years earlier than initially flagged as it speeds up efforts to process more of its resources at home.

The mid-sized miner is looking to develop its BrightGreen mining property adjacent to its active mine in Surigao del Sur province in the Philippines' nickel mining region of Caraga, according to Marcventures President Isidro Alcantara.

"We will develop it next year and that will probably take a year to complete," he said in an interview on the sidelines of a Philippine mining conference. "Hopefully, the Indonesian ban stays permanently," Alcantara told Reuters.

Philippine nickel miners are likely to ramp up their ore production when a new mining season starts by April next year, he said, echoing the outlook of other industry executives.

Last year, the Philippines was the second-biggest nickel ore supplier to China, next to Indonesia. In the first half of 2019, the Philippines became China's top source of the material used in stainless steel and batteries, and will likely maintain that status next year.

The Southeast Asian nation's nickel ore output rose a modest 3% in the first half of 2019 on a year-on-year basis, despite zero production at more than half the country's nickel mines, government data showed on Tuesday.

Alcantara urged the government to support the local nickel mining industry's expansion by lifting a moratorium on processing of new mining permits that has been in place since 2012.

The government has said the moratorium will not be lifted until a new mining tax legislation is passed, which will increase state revenues from mineral resources.

"We need to reverse some of the old policies. We need to expand in anticipation of the Indonesian ban," Alcantara said.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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