NICKEL miners in the country may expect improved prices for ore in the near term as Indonesia sets an exporting ban for the mineral next year.

Dante R. Bravo, president of the Philippine Nickel Industry Association, told reporters earlier this week the Indonesia export ban poses an opportunity for local miners, but noted the country may not be able to produce enough ore supply to meet the surge in demand.

“That’s exciting for the Philippine nickel industry, but we cannot definitely supply the gap that’s going to be left by the Indonesian ore ban,” he said.

“We’ll see. But as soon as the plans in Indonesia get operational…then we’re looking for basically three years of better prices for our ore,” he added.

Earlier this month, Indonesia released a decree ordering a nickel ore export ban starting Jan. 1, 2020, sooner than its previous target of implementing the ban in 2022.

A Reuters report said the advanced execution of the ban is aligned with the country’s intent of reserving ore for its growing smelting industries of nickel pig iron, stainless steel and electric vehicles battery nickel.

Mr. Bravo said with the doors open for new opportunities following Indonesia’s ore export ban, he hopes the Philippine government will soon lift Executive Order (EO) No. 79, which has been in place since 2012 to limit new mining permits until a new law is enacted.

“We hope by then we have the EO 79 already lifted so that we can also begin processing the mineral agreement and encourage investors to come in,” he said.

Mr. Bravo also said it is important for the cost of producing ore in the Philippines to stabilize to attract mining investors.

“You have to make it stable. Let’s say for the next two years… the price would really stay at that level. Whenever we go into value adding processing, there’s confidence in the investor that they can recover back their investment the soonest time possible,” he said.

He also flagged Administrative Order 2018-19 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which limits areas where miners can conduct operations.

“We are limited by the mining area that the DENR set and things like that. We are limited also by the weather. So there are a number of factors,” Mr. Bravo said when asked about the expected boost in production for local miners by 2020. “I’m not saying minimal. But we’ll see.” — Denise A. Valdez with Vincent Mariel P. Galang