MANILA— The Philippines is working to woo investment into its domestic nickel processing sector, the environment minister said on Thursday, as the resource-rich country looks to squeeze value out of its metals and minerals industry.
Already a major nickel ore supplier to top metals consumer China, the Philippines must now move up the value chain, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga told ANC News Channel in an interview.
“We are a vendor country at this point. What we want to be is a value creator, and so we want to be part of the value chain and not just the supply chain,” she said, without providing details.
“It is expensive but we also are one of the most mineralised countries in the world. Everyone is after our minerals,” she said.
The Philippines is looking to follow in the footsteps of its neighbour Indonesia, which has successfully attracted massive investment into processing plants for its huge nickel ore deposits, after it banned unprocessed exports in 2020.
But Yulo-Loyzaga signalled a similar ban is unlikely in the Philippines.
“This administration says that the mining industry is open for business, but (it should be) responsible mining,” she said.
The Philippines has only two nickel processing plants, which are partly owned by its biggest ore producer Nickel Asia Corp NIKL.PS.
“There is no hard target (in terms of the number of processing plants needed), but nickel of course is one of those areas where there must be more in terms of processing,” she said.
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, industry sources with knowledge of the proposal told Reuters last week.
Nickel Asia, meanwhile, will assess the feasibility of building another processing plant, president and CEO Martin Antonio Zamora told Reuters on Monday.
—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor