MANILA, Dec 10 (Reuters) - A Philippine miner partly owned by Canada's TVI Pacific Inc is looking to build what could be the Southeast Asian country's third nickel processing plant ahead of a possible ban on exports of unprocessed ore, a Manila-based spokesman said.
TVI Resource Development Phils. Inc. (TVIRD), which in October began shipping ore to China from its newly developed Agata mine in Surigao province in southern Philippines, expects a feasibility study on the plant to be completed this month.
"The company's direct shipping ore operations will pave the way for the opportunity to list on the Philippine Stock Exchange as well as the establishment of a nickel processing plant over the medium term," Corporate Communications Director Kaycee Crisostomo told Reuters.
If the plant is proven feasible, TVIRD plans to build and commission it by 2016 at a cost of $150 million to $200 million. It is a looking at a technology cheaper than the most commonly used one called high pressure acid leach, or HPAL.
Nickel Asia Corp, the Philippines' biggest nickel miner, and main shareholder Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd own and operate the country's two existing processing plants, including the $1.7 billion Taganito HPAL facility commissioned about a year ago.
The Philippines has emerged as the biggest ore supplier to China's producers of nickel pig iron, a key ingredient in stainless steel, after Indonesia halted exports of unprocessed minerals in January.
But the Philippines may impose a similar ban, at the earliest by 2021, with two bills halting ore exports and requiring domestic ore processing already approved at committee level at the House of Representatives.
Nickel dominates the Philippine mining sector with the number of mines jumping to 27 in 2014 from 15 in 2010. The country sits on metallic mineral wealth estimated to be worth $1.4 trillion based on 2013 prices.
Reporting by Erik dela Cruz