PHILEX MINING Corp. is planning to expand into nickel mining to meet the increasing demand for the mineral by electric vehicle makers, company officials said on Wednesday.

“We are prospecting for nickel resources to developing this country because the future for [electric] vehicles is bright… so we have to be in the correct position,” Philex Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters on the sidelines of a forum led by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

“I think we should be a major nickel supplier to the world. At the moment, we’re not. Our mining industry has absolutely no impact on mining prices globally because we’re so small,” Mr. Pangilinan added.

Philex President and Chief Executive Officer Eulalio B. Austin, Jr. likewise said that the company is now conducting studies into nickel mining “considering the transition into green energy is a global issue right now.”

“It’s our first time to enter into the nickel space, we have been into the copper and gold business for so long,” Mr. Austin added.

He added that the company is currently conducting exploratory studies with a site in Zambales.

“We have now started groundworks, trying to do sampling and after some evaluations, that’s the only time we could say when to mine,” he said.

The company is also eyeing a possible partner in the nickel mining endeavor, he said, without giving details.

“We will be asking [for] some guidance or having a partner to develop that property since we are not experts,” he said. “the direction is to get partners that will teach us to mine nickel.”

During the first half of the year, nickel production reached 16.87 million dry metric tons, a 40% increase from the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Austin said that the company is planning to start commercial operation of its Silangan copper-gold mine by 2025.

He added that the company is planning to produce the first ton of ore by the first quarter of 2025.

“We have raised the necessary funding and we have started the actual works underground,” he said.

The Silangan project is the company’s $224-million copper-gold mining project located in Surigao del Norte. It is said to have 571 tons worth of mineral resources.

Philex is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and PLDT Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

On Wednesday, shares in Philex went up by 0.73% or two centavos to close at P2.75 apiece. — Adrian H. Halili