THE country’s nickel industry is projected to have a strong year in 2021 as demand from foreign markets is expected to improve despite the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Philippine Nickel Industry Association President Dante R. Bravo said the group was optimistic that rising nickel consumption would continue because of the demand from the infrastructure and home appliance equipment sectors, and the electric vehicle industry.

“The mining industry has kept to employ 190,000 people in the entire country and this is very important, especially that the Philippine government is trying to implement economic recovery efforts from the impact of the pandemic,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Citing data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the industry association said the country’s nickel sector in 2020 produced 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT), a 14% drop compared with the 21.6 million DMT output the year earlier, due to the strict quarantine measures between March and May that hampered logistics across the country.

Despite the lower output, the group said the nickel industry’s export value improved to almost P25 billion during the January-September period, from P24 billion in the same period in 2019.

Mr. Bravo said the higher export value was due to higher world nickel prices created by the steady demand in China.

For 2020, he said association members contributed almost 50% of the country’s total nickel production, producing a total of 7.9 million DMT with an export value of P11.6 billion based on the bureau’s data.

“The industry is grateful that we were able to perform well despite the pandemic and that we were able to contribute to the economy during these trying times. We’re all aware that a large number of businesses closed down in 2020 and some are closing down this year,” Mr. Bravo said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bravo said the group’s members spent P166.8 million under the social development management program in Palawan, Zambales, and Caraga region. Under the program, the mining industry provides assistance such as livelihood and education to local communities.

He added that P49 million had been allocated by member companies in 2020 for COVID-19 efforts that were focused on providing food, protective equipment, medicines, and medical assistance to the community and neighboring local government units.

“Some of these efforts included build-up of isolation rooms and testing centers, provision for ambulance, transportation, supplemental supply of thermal scanners, test kits and personal protective equipment to local hospitals as well as provision of food packs, facemasks and hygiene kits to local health workers and frontliners,” Mr. Bravo said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave