There are currently three key players in the nickel sector over in New Caledonia. French-owned ERAMET has been present in the country for over 120 years now and operate mines in New Caledonia through their subsidiary, SLN (Société Le Nickel).
They have in total five operations, which are mostly concentrated in the centre of the island at Kouaoua, Thio, Nepoui, and Tiebaghi, not to mention the biggest nickel processing plant in the world, Doniambo.
Vale are the second big player in town, and have the formidable Goro Nickel project under their ownership.
This mine is located in the South of the island. It began operations in August 2010, with over 55 million tonnes of estimated mineral reserve.
Estimated annual production is around 60,000 tonnes of nickel and 5,000 tonnes of cobalt. This is an open pit operation with a processing plant on site. The third and final significant player is SMSP in joint ownership with Glencore Nickel.
The Koniambo mine started open cut operations two years ago in the north of the country, again with a processing plant on site. Koniambo will be an important contributor to New Caledonia’s mining future, being a high-grade nickel deposit of 6.1 Mt of contained nickel that has a current forecast of 25 years of operations.
So why Nickel?
Nickel is currently a very promising resource. World demand is constantly growing, at an average rate of 5 per cent per annum.
Supply has dropped off recently from two of the top exporting countries: Indonesia and the Philippines.
In January 2014, Indonesia brought in a legislative change which means nickel ore must be processed now in Indonesia before exporting it, instead of exporting the raw ore.
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