China’s Huayou seeks to build nickel ore processing plant in Philippines —sources

April 20, 2023 - 9:47 AM
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A view of nickel ore stockpiles at DMCI Mining Corporation's mine in Sta Cruz Zambales in northern Philippines February 7, 2017. Picture taken February 7, 2017. (Reuters/Erik De Castro/File Photo)

 China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Co Ltd 603799.SS is looking to build the Philippines’ third nickel ore processing facility in partnership with a Philippine miner, two industry sources with knowledge of the proposal said on Wednesday.

The Philippines, a major producer of nickel ore, wants to woo investment in domestic processing of the material used in making stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries, and hopes to boost value of its exports.

Huayou, which has also signed deals to build high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) plants in neighboring Indonesia, is in exploratory talks to construct a similar facility in the Philippines in partnership with a local nickel ore producer, the sources said.

Huayou did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said earlier on Wednesday the government was looking at two potential projects, one proposed by a Chinese group and another that may involve a non-Chinese company.

He declined to identify the groups.

Rodolfo told reporters the Chinese group was “moving fast” and “actively” seeking Philippine partners for what is likely an HPAL plant worth up to $5 billion.

If talks lead to a memorandum of understanding, the partners can get the ball rolling on the project before the year ends, he said.

The non-Chinese group was still studying investment opportunities in Philippine nickel ore processing, Rodolfo said.

The Philippines has 34 operating nickel mines and ships most of its raw nickel ore to China and some to Japan.

It has only two nickel processing plants, which are partly owned by the Philippines’ biggest ore producer Nickel Asia Corp NIKL.PS.

Its neighbors, Indonesia, banned unprocessed nickel ore exports in 2020, and has successfully attracted massive investment into processing plants.

—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; additional reporting by Siyi Liu in Beijing; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor