Filipino Nickel Industry Still Growing to Meet Demand After Indonesian Ban

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Michael Defensor is racing to mine and ship nickel from projects across the Philippines to plug the gap in global supplies left by Indonesia’s ore-export curbs.

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“Indonesia’s ban affected us positively,”  Defensor, chairman of Pax Libera Mining Inc. and the nation’s environment secretary from 2004 to 2006, told Bloomberg News. He’s preparing 4 new sites for next year after opening 2 in the past 2 years. “We will maximize this window and ship as much as we can.”

The Indonesian curbs, designed to promote local processing, started in January and were upheld in court this month. The ban initially drove prices to a 2-year high in May, before larger-than expected Philippine exports and slowing Chinese growth reversed the rally. Citigroup Inc. says it’s still bullish on nickel because the country won’t be able to expand supply much more and a global shortage will emerge.

On Friday, December 19, the day’s biggest mover was the price of Chinese primary nickel, which saw a 0.8% decline to CNY 109,600 ($17,639) per metric ton. The price of Chinese 304 stainless steel scrap saw essentially no change for the fifth day in a row, remaining around CNY 9,850 ($1,585) per metric ton. The price of Chinese 316 stainless steel scrap saw little movement at CNY 13,350 ($2,149) per metric ton. Chinese 304 stainless coil held its value last Friday at CNY 17,750 ($2,857) per metric ton. The price of Chinese 316 stainless coil remained essentially flat at CNY 23,700 ($3,814) per metric ton.

The price of Chinese ferro-chrome was unchanged at CNY 10,950 ($1,762) per metric ton. The price of Chinese ferro-moly continues hovering around CNY 90,000 ($14,485) per metric ton for the fifth day in a row.

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The nickel spot price rose 0.5% on the LME to $15,500 per metric ton after a two-day drop. After falling for two days, the 3-month price of nickel rose 0.2% on the LME to $15,500 per metric ton. After a couple of days of decreasing prices, the Indian nickel cash price held steady at INR 998.00 ($15.84).

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