BHP Billiton exits from $2-billion Philippine nickel project

The world's largest miner, BHP Billiton yesterday exited from the $2-billion Pujada nickel project located at Southern Mindanao in the southern Philippines after divesting its 40-per cent stake and ending a protracted battle with its local partner.

BHP has signed a share and asset purchase agreement to divest its 40 per cent interest for an undisclosed sum to its local partner Asiaticus Management Corporation, which holds 60 per cent stake in the Hallmark deposit.

The Hallmark deposit, which is situated in a 16,000-hectare area in Mati, Davao Oriental, holds an estimated 150 million metric tons of nickel ore reserves with 1.3 per cent nickel and is one of the mining projects that was taken up on a priority basis by the Philippine government because of its potential to become one of the country's largest nickel projects.

BHP and Asiaticus have been at loggerheads over development plans for the Hallmark deposit, with Asiaticus accusing the Anglo Australian miner of delaying the development of the project and failing to deliver on its investment promises.

In 2007, Asiaticus declared the joint venture partnership with BHP Billiton null and void and obtained a preliminary injunction from a local court last year, which ordered BHP to stop exploring the mine.

It also filed an arbitration case in Singapore, as well as with the Philippines' Court of Appeals and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.