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Nickel prices have hit year-highs the last several weeks. Topping $5 per pound for the first time since the third quarter of 2015.
And news this past week suggests nickel could be about to get another lift. From the impending shutdown of one of the world’s largest producing companies.
That’s Global Ferronickel Holdings (GFH). The second-largest nickel miner in world-leading producing nation the Philippines. With that company now facing a major mine closure in the face of growing environmental regulation from the federal government.
The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Thursday that it has cancelled the Environmental Compliance Certificate for GFH’s Ipilan nickel mine in Palawan. A move that would force Ipilan to cease mining until it rectifies supposed environmental deficiencies identified by the government.
That would be a major blow to overall Philippines nickel output. Especially given that DENR concurrently announced shutdown orders for two other nickel mines across the country — as well as one gold mining project.
The government gave few details on what prompted the pulling of the Ipilan environmental permits. But the move comes as part of a comprehensive review of practices at mines across the country — which has been ongoing for the past few months.
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DENR officials have said previously that up to 20 mines could face suspension (in addition to 10 operations that have already been halted) — and this week’s news represents the first specific orders issued as part of this campaign. Showing that regulators are serious about enforcing the recent mine audits.
DENR head Regina Lopez also said that three additional nickel mines are at imminent risk of losing their environmental certificates. Meaning even more nickel supply could be lost very soon.
For its part, GFH called the shutdown orders “unlawful” and said it plans to appeal the decision. Watch for more announcements on actual halting of operations here — and for further announcements from DENR on new mine shutdowns, which could boost nickel prices further.
Here’s to getting the nickel back.
By Dave Forest
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Dave is Managing Geologist of the Pierce Points Daily E-Letter.