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Sumitomo-led nickel venture to invest $3B

JAPAN’S SUMITOMO Metal Mining Co. Ltd. and local holding firm Nickel Asia Corp. will put up a $3-billion nickel ore processing plant in northeastern Mindanao next year.

The joint venture partners will operate the nickel processing plant by 2013, Rogelio G. Cadano, technical services manager of Taganito Mining Corp., said yesterday in a presentation to Mines and Geosciences Bureau officials.

The $1.7-billion investment target set by the venture last year was almost doubled to $3 billion this year given an increase in expected mineral production to 45,000 metric tons of nickel per year, with 4,500 metric tons of cobalt, from the original 30,000 metric tons per year.

The ores to be processed will come from a 1,000-hectare nickel mine in the municipality of Claver in Surigao del Norte, Mr. Cadano said.

"The joint venture company with Sumitomo should be formed by the end of this year or early next year," said Antonio K. Espeleta, vice-president for operation of Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp.

Taganito Mining is a subsidiary of Nickel Asia. Sumitomo subsidiary Taganito HPAL will operate the $3-billion project.

Nickel Asia operates nickel mines Rio Tuba, Taganito in Surigao del Norte, Taganaan in Surigao City, and South Dinagat and Cagdianao in northern Mindanao.

"The Sumitomo group is preparing the feasibility study but there was a re-scheduling so it will be completed late this year or early next year," Mr. Cadano told reporters.

The Sumitomo-led venture will employ 4,000 workers during the development phase.

The number of workers, however, will go down to 1,300 during the 30-year operation to extract 150 million wet metric tons of nickel ore. Annual mining operation is estimated to cost $200 million.

The ores will be shipped exclusively to Sumitomo’s refinery in Japan, Mr. Espeleta said.

"By that time [of the operation], prices of nickel might have already increased," Mines bureau Director Horacio C. Ramos said. — Neil Jerome C. Morales, Business World

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