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Philippines aims to overtake Indonesia as top nickel producer with government push and investment boom

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By Colin Hay - 
Philippines nickel challenge Indonesia

The Philippines, the world’s leading nickel exporter, has outlined plans to challenge Indonesia as the global leader in the production of this critical metal.

Backed by Chinese funding, Indonesia has disrupted global nickel markets by accelerating its production in recent years.

According to the Philippine government, the nation is now attracting interest from Australian, American, Canadian and European companies to increase its production in coming years.

Capacity enhancement

Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga has called for the Philippines to enhance its nickel production capacity, with the potential addition of three new plants on the horizon.

According to the country’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, 2023 was a significant year for recovery as the country’s nickel mines managed to increase their output to 400,000 metric tonnes.

The Philippines, which ranks sixth in the top 10 for nickel resources, currently operates 36 mines.

Investment boom

Further growth is expected to be driven by two of the Philippines’ biggest nickel producers, Nickel Asia and Global Ferronickel.

They are reported to be planning to invest a combined $3 billion to build new nickel-processing plants.

Ms Yulo-Loyzaga said the nation now has an increased focus on processing nickel domestically rather than exporting the raw product.

“We do wish we were part of the value chain, rather than just the supply chain,” she said recently.

“We want to foster an environment that encourages investments in processing by making sure we’re able to facilitate exploration and extraction responsibly.”

Fast-tracking approvals

The Philippines government has also revealed plans to fast-track approvals for exploration and processing.

It aims to emulate Indonesia’s recent success in attracting investments in mining by reducing the processing time required to obtain exploration permits and downstream nickel processing approvals.

The influential Philippines Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) has welcomed the government’s moves to accelerate the growth of the mining sector, which had been hindered by previous administrations.

“While we have made significant progress compared to the last ten years, we need to expedite industry development and regulatory reforms for the Philippines to seize valuable investment opportunities and prevent the country from being left behind,” the PNIA said in a recent statement.