Top Frontier to build nickel-processing plant
By Doris Dumlao-Abadilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 10, 2015 at 6:28 am

Top Frontier Investment Holdings, the parent company of San Miguel Corp., plans to build a $1.5-billion nickel-processing plant near its Nonoc mining site in Surigao by end-2017.

In a briefing after the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting on Thursday, Top Frontier president and chief executive Ramon S. Ang said Top Frontier was set to build a nickel-processing plant using high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) technology with a targeted annual output of 200,000 tons.

This is to prepare the company for the future, wherein the Philippines—like its Southeast Asian neighbor Indonesia—would start banning the export of unprocessed mineral ore. In September last year, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino filed a bill to prevent exports of unprocessed mineral ores in order to allow the country to unlock higher values from its mining resources and encourage mining firms to invest in processing plants.

Although this has yet to be enacted into law, Ang said the ore export ban was bound to happen in the future. “It will head there,” he said.

Ang said the HPAL plant would be built close to the existing Nonoc nickel project of Top Frontier subsidiary Clariden Holdings Inc. in Surigao, which he noted had resources estimated to be good for 40 years.  The mining rights cover an area of 23,877 hectares.

“So if this project has a minimum life of 40 years then it’s feasible,” Ang said. “We’re still exploring for bigger volume because within the concession area, there are still those which have not been drilled.”

Nonoc is the group’s biggest mining investment.

“Negotiation with suppliers is ongoing,” Ang said, adding that the group was not looking for any partner for this HPAL project. Of the $1.5-billion project cost, he said 30 percent would be funded by equity and 70 percent by debt.

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