Chinese to pursue Surigao nickel project

CHINA’S JINCHUAN Group Ltd. has renewed its interest to pursue a proposal to invest as much as $1.5 billion in the rehabilitation of the Nonoc nickel mines in Surigao province, according to an industry official.

Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told reporters Tuesday that talks between Jinchuan and Philnico Industrial Corp. have started.

Romualdez disclosed that the president of Jinchuan personally told him during the China Asean Mining Forum that aside from the Nonoc nickel mine, the company would likewise pursue other prospective mining projects in the country.

He added that the $1.5 billion was an earlier estimate made by the Chinese firm. This amount included a refinery as well.

Exclusive negotiations between Philnico and Jinchuan bogged down in January 2007 because the prospective Chinese investor insisted on doing another feasibility study.

Philnico president Evaristo M. Narvaez Jr. earlier said that the study would push back the project’s launch by six to 12 months without any assurance of a definitive agreement.

Narvaez earlier noted that when Jinchuan officially terminated negotiations, Philnico received offers from investors from Russia, Japan, Canada and other Chinese mining companies, all of which were in the advanced stages of due-diligence work on the project.

But by May of the same year, Philnico announced that it welcomed the offer of Jinchuan to further improve its previous proposal to invest $1 billion in the rehabilitation of the Nonoc nickel mines.

Located on Nonoc Island off Surigao City, the nickel mine is touted to hold one of the biggest nickel and cobalt resources in Southeast Asia. The Nonoc mine, which has about 60 million metric tons of nickel ore reserves, halted operations in 1982 due to high energy costs.

Philnico is 55-percent owned by Hong-Kong based Compline Resources Co., 30 percent by Australia’s Pacific Energy Ltd. and the rest by local investors. (inquirer)

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