First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM; LSE: FQM) management says it could have a buyer for any nickel produced from a restart of the venerable Ravensthorpe nickel-cobalt mine at Bandalup Hill in Western Australia, but on a second-quarter earnings call, the company’s CEO, Philip Pascall, was intentionally vague about who that buyer might be.
Pascall cited increasing interest from a “not Congo source” that wants a “strategic source” of nickel. “We need it to be in production to be able to take advantage of that, but it’s profitable [at current nickel prices]. The cost to bring it back into production is very modest because of the work we’ve done sustaining it,” Pascall said.
After being peppered with several questions regarding Ravensthorpe from seemingly surprised analysts, Pascall said: “[The proposed buyer] would want to see it operating. The production levels … something over 20,000 tonnes for next year. But the actual start date at the moment is going to move up or down a month or two.”
He added that Ravensthorpe could provide the company with a “breakeven contribution” down to and even below $5 per lb nickel.
In October 2017, when Ravensthorpe was placed on care and maintenance, nickel was trading at around $5 per lb. By press time, nickel had climbed to $7.20 per pound.
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