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Philippines 9-month nickel ore output drops 11 pct amid sanctions

Kitco News

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Nickel ore output in the Philippines, the world's top supplier, dropped 11 percent in the nine months to September with several mines still suspended under a government crackdown and others hit by bad weather, the mining industry regulator said.

Of the country's 30 nickel mines, only 17 reported output during the nine-month period, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said in a report on Monday.

At least eight nickel mines have been suspended since last year for environmental breaches under a crackdown by former Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, who was ousted in May. The country's output of nickel ore, most of which is shipped to China to make stainless steel, totalled 19.01 million tonnes compared with 21.34 million tonnes a year ago, the bureau said.

Output "continued to be hampered by the standing suspension in the operations of a number of nickel mines, coupled with the non-operation of nickel mines in Dinagat Islands due to care/maintenance status and unfavourable weather conditions," the mines bureau said, referring to a group of islands in the southern Mindanao region.

The government has yet to decide on the fate of the suspended mines, with officials saying a review was still ongoing. Lopez was replaced by Roy Cimatu, a former soldier. Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the leader has not lifted a ban on open pit mining, going against the stance of a government panel that is seeking to reverse the policy. In terms of other minerals, gold output dropped 3 percent in January-September and copper concentrate fell 19 percent. Silver output declined 11 percent and chromite slid 47 percent.

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Vyas Mohan)

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