MANILA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Nickel Asia Corp NIKL.PS, the Philippines' top nickel ore producer and exporter, said on Wednesday it has suspended operations at one of its four mines after an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Work at Nickel Asia's Hinatuan mine in the nickel mining hub, the Caraga region, have been suspended from Tuesday until Nov. 10 as a containment measure, it said in a statement, after 19 employees tested positive.
The Hinatuan mine in Surigao del Norte province accounted for 11% of Nickel Asia's total ore sales volume last year.
The Philippines is an alternative supply source of nickel ore for China, which relies mainly on higher-grade material from Indonesia. Indonesia, however, has temporarily banned exports of unprocessed minerals.
Ore from the Philippines is used to make nickel pig iron, the raw material for China's massive stainless steel industry.
Nickel Asia said its unit, Hinatuan Mining Corp, had placed the entire mine site on lockdown for seven days from Oct. 19.
However, the municipality of Tagana-an, where the mine is located, has issued a lockdown order for the mine "until further orders".
Hinatuan will resume essential non-mining and support activities after the 14-day suspension, while mass coronavirus testing continues at the site, Nickel Asia said.
The firm did not expect a significant impact of the Hinatuan mine closure on its financial results because the unit was already at the tail-end of its mining season.
Nickel mining and shipping operations in southern Philippines are usually halted in the last quarter of the year due to the rainy season.
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty)
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