MANILA, Aug 14 (Reuters) – The two biggest nickel miners in the Philippines do not expect further major disruptions to their operations this year, after posting lower first-half ore sales due to lockdown measures aimed at containing the coronavirus.

Since neighbouring Indonesia banned nickel ore shipments at the start of the year, the Philippines has become the leading supplier of nickel ore, the raw material for stainless steel, to the world’s biggest metals producer and user China.

Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the country’s second-largest ore producer, on Friday kept its 2020 shipment target of 5 million wet metric tonnes. First-half sales fell 30% to 1.26 million wmt, from 1.81 million wmt in the same period last year.

The biggest ore producer, Nickel Asia Corp, said in a statement it was “cautiously optimistic” that shipments this year will be close to the 2019 level of 18.8 million wmt. The miner’s first-half sales dropped 20% to 7.29 million wmt.

The two companies were among the miners affected by the suspension of mining and shipping in the country’s main nickel ore-producing region of Caraga for several weeks earlier this year due to measures to curb the coronavirus.

The companies were allowed to resume operations starting May but under strict protocols.

“We have regained momentum and are still on track to meet our adjusted shipment target,” Global Ferronickel President Dante Bravo said told Reuters.

“It’s a matter of discipline, strict enforcement of health protocols, and faith that there will be no infection in our mine site, so that there will be no disruptions in the second half or while there is this pandemic,” said Bravo, who is also president of the Philippine Nickel Industry Association.

The Philippines has put Manila and some surrounding provinces back under lockdown as its coronavirus cases surge to nearly 150,000, the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia. (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz Editing by Ed Davies)


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