Colombian environmental regulators have denied an expansion request by BHP Billiton’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine, according to company officials. Cerro Matoso is one of the world’s top producers of ferro nickel.

For now, environmental permits cannot be changed to accommodate the mining project’s expansion, said Colombian government officials, according to Reuters, which quoted the National Mining Agency as saying the decades-old project produced more than 47,000 metric tons of nickel in 2012.

Located near Montelibano in northern Colombia, Cerro Matoso hosts a lateritic nickel ore deposit and a low-cost ferro nickel smelter; the smelter and refinery are integrated with an open-cut mine. By Q4 2012, Cerro Matoso updated certain parts of its mining contract and increased royalties paid to the government.