MANILA, June 24 (Reuters) - The Philippines' biggest nickel miner, Nickel Asia Corp , said on Friday it expects its sales volumes to increase about 20 percent this year, with about 60 percent of output going to China.
Nickel Asia, partly owned by Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd , expects to sell about 10 million tonnes of ore this year, topping last year's record 8.3 million tonnes, Gerard Brimo, Nickel Asia president and chief executive officer, told reporters.
China would take about 60 percent of the volume, with the rest going to Japan and Nickel Asia's Coral Bay high-pressure acid-leach nickel processing facility, he said.
"China has become a major stainless steel producer so there is a lot of demand for NPI (nickel pig iron) and consequently, there is a lot of demand for the kind of ore that we have," Brimo said.
"That demand is not going to weaken anytime soon, we don't think. It's very strong."
China accounts for over a third of global nickel consumption. The Philippines competes with Indonesia in Asia in nickel supply.
"The region in general... is running low on the very high grade lateritic nickel ore, so there is more demand for medium grades, we have plenty of that. So we see demand continuing very strong in the years ahead," Brimo said.
The 33-year old company has controlling stakes in four Philippine nickel mines -- Rio Tuba, Taganito, Cagdianao and Taganaan mines.
Brimo said Nickel Asia was on track in the construction of its $1.4 billion Taganito hydrometallurgical nickel processing plant set to come on stream in the second half of 2013.
The plant has an annual capacity of 30,000 tonnes contained nickel and 2,600 tonnes contained cobalt and is currently considered to be the single largest investment in the Philippine mining sector. (Editing by John Mair)