\n<b>By REAGAN D. TAN, BusinessWorld Reporter <\/b><br rn\/><br rn\/>China\u2019s largest nickel producer Jinchuan Nonferrous Metals Corp., has made a "better" offer for the mothballed Nonoc nickel mine in Surigao del Norte and has called for resumptions of stalled negotiations with mine owner Philippine Nickel Corp. (Philnico) for a joint venture agreement, a government official said. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said he received last week a letter from Jinchuan Chairman Li Yong-Jun containing "refinements" to the firm\u2019s earlier offer to infuse $1 billion for reviving the Nonoc mine, one of the richest nickel deposits in the world. <br rn\/><br rn\/>"Philnico is asking for a better price. But [the price] is between the two parties [to agree upon]. But let\u2019s put it this way, it is an improvement from their earlier offer," Mr. Favila said this week, declining to provide figures. <br rn\/><br rn\/>But Philnico appeared uninterested, with Chairman Evaristo M. Narvaez, Jr. saying that the firm is already in "advanced stages" of negotiations with other firms. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Mr. Narvaez also said he was not aware of Jinchuan\u2019s renewed interest in the mining project and that he was not informed of the letter Jinchuan sent to Mr. Favila. <br rn\/><br rn\/>"I can\u2019t commit on that [Jinchuan\u2019s new offer]... We cannot just terminate other negotiations with other firms," Mr. Narvaez told BusinessWorld without revealing its potential partners. <br rn\/><br rn\/>"Jinchuan has written us a letter [earlier this year] terminating our negotiations. As far as we are concerned, we haven\u2019t talked to them since that time," he added. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Jinchuan and its shareholder the Baosteel Group, China\u2019s biggest steel firm, had earlier agreed to invest $1 billion in reviving the Nonoc complex, which had capacity to produce 41,000 tons of nickel annually. <br rn\/><br rn\/>The two Chinese firms had also agreed to settle Philnico\u2019s $300-million liability, which was accrued when the local firm bought the Nonoc mine from the government in the mid-1990s. <br rn\/><br rn\/>But joint-venture talks ended in January after Jinchuan sought to do a feasibility study separate from a study already done by Philnico. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Mr. Narvaez said that negotiations with the other firms are on track and that the mine would be reopened by 2008 and fully operational by 2010. <br rn\/><br rn\/>The Nonoc mine operated from 1975 but closed down in 1982 due to high oil prices and energy costs. <br rn\/><br rn\/>It is one of 24 priority mining sites of the government that would bring in a total of $6.5 billion worth of investments and create over 200,000 jobs in the medium term. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Government data show that Nonoc island has about 144 million tons of nickel ore reserves. <br rn\/><br rn\/>Mr. Favila said that Jinchuan made the new offer because "there\u2019s value in the investment."