MAC: Mines and Communities

Billiton Investing $1.5bn

Published by MAC on 2007-02-24
Source: Manila Standard

Billiton investing $1.5bn

By Othel V. Campos, Manila Standard

24th February 2007

BHP Billiton Ltd. of Australia and the United Kingdom, the world's biggest mining company, plans to invest $1.5 billion in a nickel processing plant in the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said yesterday.

BHP Billiton executives paid a courtesy visit to the environment and natural resources department yesterday to make known their plans to invest heavily in the mining sector.

The mining giant, along with Philippine partners Hallmark Mining Corp. and AustralAsia Link Mining Corp., plans to start construction of a nickel processing plant by 2010.

The company also plans to conduct a pre-feasibility study on an 11,799-hectare area in Pujada Peninsula, Davao Oriental. The area has an estimated nickel reserve capacity of 150 million metric tons at 1.3 percent nickel concentration.

"They were upbeat on the developments of their Hallmark [mining] project and they brought up the possibility of building their own nickel processing plant here in the Philippines, should the volume of the deposit and other sources so warrant," said Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Chris Campbell, Billiton's chief development official for stainless steel materials, and Philip Hopkins, group manager for regional development, said the nickel processing plant would have an annual capacity of 50,000 tons.

Billiton also said the company was in talks with Benguet Corp. for a possible joint-venture project in a nickel mining claim in Zambales.

Four other players-Canada's CVMR, Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. and China's CITIC and Jinchuan Group--are also interested in investing in nickel projects in the country, Reyes said.

CVMR earlier expressed interest in building its own nickel processing plant, with investments reaching as much as $3 billion.

Sumitomo is interested in building another nickel processing plant in Surigao del Norte, which will have an annual capacity of 30,000 tons. The project may require an investment of around P386 million.

It is expanding its Coral Bay nickel processing plant in southern Palawan in partnership with Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. The expansion program seeks to double the plant's current annual production capacity of 10,000 tons of nickel and 750 tons of cobalt by 2008.

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