New Caledonian miners seek to ramp up nickel ore exports to China – by Melanie Burton , Cecile Lefort and Gus Trompiz (Reuters U.S. – December 24, 2016)

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MELBOURNE, SYDNEY, PARIS – New Caledonia’s nickel ore miners have applied to increase shipments to China after an environmental crackdown on Philippine mine supply this year has caused prices to spike, four sources familiar with the matter said this week.

Two miners, Societe Metallurgique Le Nickel (SLN), owned by France’s Eramet, and Societe des Mines de la Tontouta (SMT) have applied for permits to export more ore to China in 2017, the sources said.

China is demanding new sources of nickel ore to feed its vast stainless steel industry after the Philippines, the world’s biggest ore exporter, halted production at some mines for environmental violations. China’s steel industry has boosted production this year to meet construction demand amid a domestic property boom.

China began importing ore this year from New Caledonia for the first time since 2011, after shipments to Australia’s Queensland Nickel were diverted after the plant shut down due to low prices, and as Philippine exports fell. The island territory is the world’s fifth-largest nickel miner, producing nickel laterite ore, a type prized by Chinese smelters.

“We are requesting an extension to sell 950,000 tonnes of laterites a year to China for two years,” said Thibaut Martelin, general manager of SMT, up from 350,000 tonnes initially allowed.

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