Vale puts New Caledonian nickel operation up for sale – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – December 4, 2019)

Brazilian mining giant Vale (NYSE:VALE) is selling its ailing Goro nickel operation on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia, which has been strewn with operational problems ever since it came on stream, two years behind schedule, in 2011.

The company, the world’s top nickel producer, had been hoping to attract a partner for the loss-making asset, but the lack of success prompted it to go it alone. Exactly a year ago, Vale announced it would invest $500 million in the project, mainly on a waste storage facility, between 2019 and 2022.

The company, however, has never fully mastered the challenging high-pressure-acid-lead (HPAL) technology used to convert ore to nickel oxides.

The original plan envisaged a three-year ramp-up to nameplate capacity of 58,000 tonnes of nickel in oxide and hydroxide. In 2017, its sixth year of operation, it managed 40,000 tonnes.

And this year, production of what Vale terms “finished nickel products from VNC source material” is expected to come at 23,000 tonnes — less than 60% of the target.

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