Despite a slowdown in production due to the pandemic, the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) reported an increase in export value in 2020.

Citing data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), it said the Philippine nickel sector produced a total of 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT) in 2020, a 14% decline in production in comparison with the 21.6 million DMT production in the previous year 2019.

“The decrease in production was mainly brought about by the enhanced community quarantine between March to May 2020 where movement of mineral products were limited throughout the country,” the group said in a press release.

In terms of export value, the industry earned almost P25 billion between January to September of 2020, an increase from the P24 billion posted from the same period in 2019.

PNIA President Dante Bravo said the export value growth was mainly driven by the increase in prices of nickel in the market.

The improved world price of nickel in 2020 came from the steady demand in China.

PNIA said its members contributed almost 50% of the total nickel production in the Philippines.

Members produced a total of 7.9 million DMT with an export value of P11.6 billion in 2020. In 2019, members of the nickel association produced 9.6 million DMT with an export value of P10.6 billion.

“The industry is grateful that we were able to perform well despite the pandemic and that we were able to contribute to the economy during these trying times. We’re all aware that a large number of businesses closed down in 2020 and some are closing down this year. Most importantly, we’re glad that the nickel industry was able to operate and continue to help our local communities survive during the challenges of the pandemic last year,” Bravo said.

The industry’s Social Development Management Program (SDMP), one of the mandated programs under the Philippine Mining Law was also unhampered even during the pandemic, the group said.

In 2020, PNIA members spent a total of P166.8 million in implementing SDMP projects particularly in Palawan, Zambales and Caraga region.

Bravo said members of PNIA contributed an estimated amount of P49 million in 2020 for Covid-19-related efforts in host and neighboring communities including Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. The association also gave a total of P2.8 million for other Covid-19 and Typhoon “Ulysses” relief efforts.

For 2021, the industry remains optimistic as nickel consumption is likely increase with the growing demand from foreign markets driven by the infrastructure sector and improved demand from the electric vehicle industry as well as the home appliance equipment manufacturing sector, the group said.