Manila's Berong seeks to double nickel supply to BHP

MANILA, July 18 (Reuters) - The Philippines' Berong Nickel Corp is in talks to double its long-term annual supply deal with BHP Billiton BHP.AX to 1 million tonnes of laterite nickel ore beginning March, a company official said on Friday.

Berong Nickel, in which Toledo Mining TMC.L and Atlas Consolidated Mining Corp AT.PS have stakes, currently has an agreement to supply BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining group, with 500,000 tonnes of laterite nickel ore per year for five years, which can be extended by another five years.

“We’re now looking at increasing that to a million tonnes a year, and that tides us away from relying on the Chinese market,” said George Bujtor, chief executive of Berong Nickel.

“We want to start March next year for the supply of one million tons to BHP,” he said.

Apart from BHP Billiton, the Berong project, potentially the world’s fourth-largest nickel laterite resource, is shipping ore with an average grade of around 1.5 percent to Chinese clients.

The company is likely to export 600,000 tonnes laterite nickel ore this year, Bujtor said. The group earlier said it was unlikely to meet a shipment goal of 1.5 million tonnes of laterite ore this year due to shipping difficulties.

Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Tomasz Janowski; Reuters Messaging:; +63 2 841-8937