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Nickel prices up as PH goes after erring mines

/ 12:16 AM January 26, 2017

Global prices of nickel rose by 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the previous three months, partly due to the ongoing Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) audit of mines, according to the World Bank.

Based on the latest issue of the bank’s quarterly Commodity Markets Outlook report, prices of the white metal increased to $10,797 per metric ton in the December quarter from $10,264 in the September quarter.

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Even then, such increase was tempered compared to the 16.3-percent quarter-on-quarter jump in the third quarter from $8,823 in the second quarter.

This was when the Duterte administration was installed and Regina Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, had assumed office as Environment Secretary.

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The World Bank forecasts nickel prices would rev up by 14.6 percent to $11,000 in 2017 from $9,595 in 2016.

“Nickel prices rose (in the fourth quarter of 2016) on strong stainless steel demand in China, and loss of ore output in the Philippines due to environmental audits of mines— although losses were less than initially feared,” the bank said.

“The reversal of Indonesia’s export ban stipulates that any miner building a smelter for at least 30 percent of its feedstock will be allowed to export excess ore supplies,” it added. “However, there is uncertainty on how much excess ore will be shipped from the country (Indonesia).”

Because of the ban in Indonesia, the Philippines has been the world’s biggest supplier of nickel since 2012.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the DENR said the “fate of 30 mining companies that failed the initial audit conducted… will be known on

Feb. 2,” when Lopez is set to announce the final results and recommendations of an audit team.

Last July 8, Lopez ordered an immediate review of the operations of all 41 metallic mines in the country, “to look into the adequacy and efficiency of environmental protection measures taken by the mining companies, determine gaps in those measures and identify the appropriate penalties for violations of mining and environmental laws.”

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Subsequently, last Sept. 27, she announced that only 11 mining companies “passed” the audit and 30 firms were either ordered suspended or recommended for suspension for failing to meet environmental safety standards.

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