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Nickel Asia weighs opportunities in EV industry

Nickel Asia weighs opportunities in EV industry

Nickel Asia weighs opportunities in EV industry

Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), the Philippines’ lone nickel mining company with processing plants in partnership with Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd., is weighing further opportunities in the electric vehicle industry as government is strongly pushing for the country’s participation in the industry’s value chain, particularly in the manufacture of EV batteries.

Martin Antonio G. Zamora, president and CEO of Nickel Asia Corp., said during a media roundtable discussion that its existing nickel processing operation that employs the High-Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) technology presents bright opportunities for the company to participate in the booming EV industry.

“We are already partners with Sumitomo so it makes sense for us to cooperate to build another plant in the Philippines to go into processing,” said Zamora.

At present, the company has two HPAL plants in partnership with Sumitomo: one in Rio Tuba where it owns minority shares of 10 percent and one in Taganito where it also owns 15.6 percent of the Coral Bay Nickel Corp. in Palawan.

He explained that their current HPAL plants in the country produce mixed sulfide where nickel is already at 55 percent from only one percent. The mixed sulfide is exported to Japan where it goes further processing to make it almost pure nickel to be used in the production of EV batteries.

“Moving forward that is an interesting area for us to pursue,” said Zamora, who said that it costs them $1.6 billion to build the 30,000-ton HPAL plant in 2012.

To build a third new HPAL plant would require a mining site with at least 100 million ton of nickel reserves to be able to feed the HPAL processing plant. “So, it cannot be a small mine, but large,” he pointed out. The plant should also be adjacent to the mineral deposits.

“We’re looking at opportunities whether it us or in our own areas or other areas that are not yet ours,” he added.

Whether the idea for a third plant would come from NAC or Sumitomo, Zamora said they are always cooperating. “So, it is interesting for us to cooperate on a third project in the Philippines,” he said.

He, however, cautioned that finding a new nickel mine site with that huge mineral deposit is not that easy.

Time is also of the essence because nickel analysts are forecasting of nickel shortage by 2005 or 2027, at the latest. Since it will take three years to build a plant, Zamora said, investors in nickel processing should be starting this year or next year.

To push for the production of EV batteries in the country, Zamora said the government has to first encourage the production of mixed sulfide and further nickel refining operation to attract EV battery manufacturers into the country.

The limitation though is that there are not many mining sites of that scale of 100 million MT nickel mineral reserves in the country. The cost of investing in the country is also high with expensive power, infrastructure, tax, and unstable policies compared to other countries, like Indonesia.




2023-01-23 00:50:00



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