Nickel Asia Corp (NAC), the biggest nickel producer in the Philippines, has announced plans to expand its nickel operation in the country with two further mines. The company has also explored the possibility of adding a third nickel processing plant in the country.

Nickel Asia wholly owns four operational mines in the Philippines, with partial stakes in a further eight exploratory sites. The Manila-based corporation also has partial stakes in the country’s two nickel processing plants.

The deal also includes an investigation into the viability of constructing a high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plant in the country. Whilst HPAL is a quick solution to nickel production, the HPAL process can be a particularly polluting one. The majority of HPAL plants worldwide use coal power, with high greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the site’s carbon environmental viability depends on whether the nickel being used to produce EV batteries can offset the emissions inherent in its production.

The future of Filipino nickel

The move is a show of confidence in an industry beset by weather problems in the south Asian country. A major driver behind the 10% fall in production in 2022 was the impact of persistent flooding during the monsoon season, as well as bad weather affecting shipping routes to the world’s largest nickel consumer, China.

The Philippines was the world’s second largest nickel producer in 2022, producing 346,000 tonnes in the calendar year. Although that marked a fall from 2021, Globaldata predicts the country’s nickel industry will grow over coming years.

An important driver of this may be the war in Ukraine. Russia mines the third-most nickel in the world, although its output has slowly decreased in recent years. As sanctions on Russia and aversion to Russian trade continues, Filipino nickel could find new buyers and play an increasingly important role.

In 2022, electronics manufacturer LG  invest heavily in Indonesian nickel, for use in battery construction.