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China's nickel ore imports from Indonesia rise 26.5% in August ahead of ban

BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) - China's nickel ore imports from Indonesia rose 26.5% year-on-year in August, customs data showed on Wednesday, as stainless steel producers stocked up on raw materials ahead of a ban on exports from the Southeast Asian country.

Following weeks of speculation, top nickel miner Indonesia confirmed on Sept. 2 it would ban nickel ore exports from Jan. 1 next year as it seeks to process more of its resources at home.

That sent benchmark London nickel prices to their highest in almost five years.

China, the world's biggest stainless steel producer, imported 5.72 million tonnes of nickel ores and concentrates in total last month, up 5.5% from July but 7.5% lower year on year, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed.

Imports from Indonesia stood at 1.61 million tonnes, up from 1.27 million tonnes a year earlier but down 8.4% from the previous month.

Shipments from the Philippines, China's biggest supplier of nickel ore and its most obvious source of alternative supply, came in at 3.99 million tonnes last month, up 13.2% from 3.52 million tonnes in July but down 16.8% from August 2018.

Experts say however that even though Philippine nickel miners are likely to boost production next year, they cannot match the higher grade of Indonesian ore and will be unable to completely fill the supply void. (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Jan Harvey)