By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

PHILIPPINE NICKEL output is likely to decline this year after disruptions caused by typhoons and logistical issues, an industry group said.

Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) President Dante R. Bravo said at a virtual briefing on Wednesday overall nickel output is projected to be down this year, after operations of most nickel producers were affected by bad weather.

“Most of the mining companies that supply nickel to China or produces nickel for export are within the Caraga Region and we share the same weather pattern. There’s been a lot of rain this year. So I believe that the production this year will be down overall,” he said.

Tropical storm Maring last week brought heavy rains over the Caraga Region, which is composed of five provinces – Agusan del Norte and Sur, Surigao del Norte and Sur, and the Dinagat Islands.

Based on Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) data, the country’s nickel output in 2020 reached 333,962 metric tons (MT), 3.3% higher than 323,325 MT in 2019.

Nickel shipments are also being affected by the gridlock in global ports.

“Based on our experience this year, our production is down by about 10% because usually every year, we target 100 vessels for shipment,” Mr. Bravo said. “However, we will not be hitting 100 vessels this year. Probably, we will hit 90 vessels, so that is why I am saying that production is down. I also think there is a shortage of vessels.”   

Despite the lower output, Mr. Bravo said nickel production value is estimated to increase as prices continue to rise.

“In terms of value, I think it is going to be higher than the previous years because we have seen prices steadily going up since the start of this year because of the increasing Chinese demand for nickel,” he said.

“We expect high nickel prices to continue next year and probably beyond that, until we are able to normalize everything.”

Mr. Bravo, who is also president of Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc., said he expects strong demand to continue through 2022, fueled by the accelerating shift to electric vehicles and the increasing need for stainless steel as the world economy recovers from the pandemic.

“Hopefully, nickel production volume will increase next year if the weather will be good,” he said. “The prices will also continue to increase next year. The catch up in terms of production might probably happen in 2023 or 2024 as more mines are trying to open.”

For the first half of 2021, MGB data showed that nickel ore production volume increased by 39% year on year to 151,646 MT, while the price of nickel for the period rose 40% to $17,490.15 per MT. 

The country’s top nickel ore producers have benefited from higher nickel ore prices and increased volume in the first half.

Nickel Asia Corp. sold 8.3 million wet metric tons (WMT) at a weighted average realized price of $25.47 per WMT in the first six months, higher than the 7.3 million WMT at $16.02 per WMT a year ago.

Global Ferronickel reported a 38.3% increase in shipment volume to 1.74 million WMT in the first half, which were all exported to China. It said the overall average realized nickel ore price for the period ending June 30 was $31.10 per WMT, 27.6% higher than the $24.38 per WMT a year earlier.