UPDATE 1-Indonesia may loosen export ban on metal ores – by Rieka Rahadiana and Fergus Jensen (Reuters India – August 28, 2013)


Aug 28 (Reuters) – Indonesia will push for a relaxation of its controversial 2014 ban on metal ore exports amid a scramble to support the rupiah and restore confidence in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Indonesia is the world’s top exporter of nickel ore, coal and refined tin and its mining industry contributes around 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the ban on unprocessed mineral exports from January 2014 has hit the industry and uncertainties over the country’s mining rules have dented its credibility with foreign investors.

If approved, the reversal of mining policy will upset metal industries banking on a tightening of ore shipments that have increased significantly in the lead up to the ban. However, some in parliament doubted the government would manage to overturn the rule.

Under the proposed revision, mining companies with smelters under construction would be allowed to continue to export unprocessed minerals, but would be charged a progressive duty on the shipments depending on how close to completion their projects are, Industry Minister Muhammad Sulaeman Hidayat told reporters.

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New Caledonia weighs up impact of nickel mining – by Johnny Blades (Radio New Zealand International – July 12, 2013)


Nickel mining is being blamed for New Caledonia’s soaring carbon emission rate and a nagging problem with pollution in the capital, Noumea, Nickel represents over 90 percent of New Caledonia’s overall exports and is the bedrock of the economy.

But as Johnny Blades found out, questions are being asked whether the territory’s heavy reliance on nickel mining is hindering its prospects of a sustainable future.

For a first time visitor to Noumea, it hits you as you drive towards the city. It’s different from many capitals in the Pacific region. You’re driving a multi-laned sealed motorway, being overtaken by BMW SUVs and Audis, passing lots of big buildings, housing developments. Signs of money are everywhere, and as you near the city itself, an explanation as it why there’s so much money floating around seems to present itself. The motorway winds around a large industrial complex with several tall chimneys belching dirty smoke into the air. So I pulled off the road to get a better look at it. It’s the power plant and smelter facility of SLN, Societe Le Nickel.

DOMINIQUE NACCI: The state-controlled mining company, SLN. SLN was owning over 70 percent of the tenements of New Caledonia, so it’s very important. And also New Caledonia owns about 25 percent of the world resource of nickel.

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BMS [ferro-nickel] Smelter to Start Operations in 2014 – by Damiana Simanjuntak (Jakartaa Globe – July 8, 2013)


Local miner Bumi Makmur Selaras Group Indonesia and Chinese metal miner Hanking Group are set to start operating their $500 million ferro-nickel smelting plant in Sulawesi next year, to comply with a government requirement to process mining product domestically.

Tadjudin Hidajat, the BMS president director, said the company and its Chinese partner had invested $150 million by the end of June. He said the processing plant is projected to be complete by December and to start commercial operations next May.

“The smelter was built in response to the ban on export of raw minerals that will be imposed by the government in 2014,” he said after a meeting with Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat last week.

The 2009 Mining Law states that mining outfits operating in the country must submit plans to process raw minerals such as aluminium and copper domestically before 2014. The government will ban the export of raw minerals after 2014 for mining outfits without such plans. In its early stage the Sulawesi smelter’s production capacity will reach 20,000 tons per year and be increased incrementally to 60,000 tons per year.

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Environmental headwinds buffet BHP in Colombia – by Brian Robins (Sydney Morning Herald – July 1, 2013)


In the wake of heightened environmental sensitivities to the activities of mining companies in Latin America, BHP Billiton’s plans to expand a nickel mine in Columbia have been blocked.

Governments in the region from Chile to Argentina have forced several global mining companies to rethink mine applications in response to growing criticism over the industry’s rising incursions.

Late last week, Colombia’s environmental licensing authority, Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, turned down a request from BHP Billiton’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine to expand the site, according to wire reports. Cerro Matoso is the second largest producer of ferro nickel globally.

The request was denied because existing environmental permits cannot be modified to enable mining projects to be expanded, the environmental authority said.

The BHP Billiton project, which has operated for many years, produced more than 47,000 tonnes of nickel last year. The mine taps a laterite nickel deposit that is used as feedstock at a ferro-nickel smelter nearby. Most nickel is used to produce stainless steel.

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Nickel price to weaken further as pig iron sector cuts costs (Reuters/Economic Times – June 19, 2013)


SINGAPORE/LONDON: China’s nickel pig iron producers are turning in droves to a new technology that allows them to survive at lower prices, a move that suggests nickel prices, already mired at four-year lows, could fall further.

As nickel prices near $14,000 a tonne, however, output cuts by loss-making producers with higher costs could steady the market, analysts said.

Nickel, mainly used to make stainless steel, is down 17 percent this year. It is the worst performer of a industrial metals complex hit hard by China’s slowing growth. Fed by a commodity boom, prices peaked above $50,000 a tonne in 2007.

Production of nickel pig iron in China, a cheaper substitute for pure nickel used as feedstock by stainless steel mills, has more than quadrupled to an estimated 400,000 tonnes this year from 89,000 tonnes in 2008, according to Macquarie.

At the same time, technical innovations have slashed costs, which has in turn lowered the floor for nickel prices.

The break-even cost for nickel pig iron produced by rotary kiln electric furnace (RKEF) technology is now as low as $12,500 a tonne and its market share has soared, said Dennis Zamora, senior vice president for marketing and strategic planning at Nickel Asia Corp.

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Ibris Group plans $1.8 bln Indonesian nickel smelter – by Fergus Jensen (Reuters U.S. – June 19, 2013)


JAKARTA – (Reuters) – Ibris Group, a Singapore-based miner, announced plans to build a $1.8 billion nickel pig iron plant in Sulawesi, the latest in a series of smelter projects after Indonesia began tightening controls on ore exports.

Indonesia, the world’s top nickel ore exporter, has been pushing for greater returns from its resource wealth. In 2009, it imposed a ban on unprocessed ore exports after January 2014.

The government, which has faced widespread criticism from miners and metal importers over the rules, has indicated it may relax the ore export ban for companies with smelter projects, however.

Singapore-based Ibris, which expects to export around 3 million tonnes of nickel ore this year, triple its 2011 level, plans to build the Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace smelter in two stages, with a total budget of around $1.8 billion.

“We will draw on our own funds as well as external investment. We have agreed with a consortium of financial investors to take a share of the project finance,” Ibris Group Chief Executive Arwan Ahimsa told reporters in Jakarta. Ibris would hold a 51 percent stake in the project.

“We have the engineering and basic design, and we are adjusting this to suit the site conditions, infrastructure requirements and support material,” Ahimsa said.

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Horizonte raises $4.7 million for Brazilian nickel project – by Lawrence Williams (Mineweb.com – June 11, 2013)


AIM and TSX junior nickel developer Horizonte Minerals has done well to raise $4.7m in the current climate and has organised an optional facility for a further $12.5m.

LONDON (MINEWEB) – AIM and TSX main board quoted Horizonte Minerals, which is concentrating its efforts on its Araguaia nickel project in Brazil’s Carajás region in Pará state – a deposit which it describes as a world leading asset in terms of size and grade – has just announced it has raised some £3 million ( around US$4.7 million) in an equity issue at 7.5 p/share, fully supported by its two major shareholders, Teck and Henderson Global Investors (HGI).

In addition it has also entered into a term sheet for an equity financing facility (EFF) for up to £8m ($12.5 million) over three years with Darwin Strategic Limited, a subsidiary of HGI. This can be drawn down at Horizonte’s option.

The Araguaia nickel deposit is a saprolitic nickel laterite located in the same area as Vale’s Onça Puma nickel mine as well as some other significant nickel projects including Glencore Xstrata’s Serra do Tapa only 60 km away.

Grades are reckoned as good for a deposit of this type and the resource is big – with considerable scope for expansion. The current NI 43-101 resource is estimated at 39.3 million tonnes grading 1.39% Ni (Indicated) and 60.9 million tonnes at 1.22% Ni (Inferred) at a 0.95% nickel cut-off. At lower cutoff grades the tonnages are far higher.

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[Eramet] Weda Bay Nickel May Miss Tax Holiday – by Tito Summa Siahaan (Jakarta Times – June 6, 2013)


France-based mining firm Eramet has been urged to spin off the processing facility of its planned Indonesian nickel mine if it wishes to take advantage of a foreign investment tax holiday.

The company plans to invest up to $5 billion to build nickel processing facilities associated with its proposed mine at Weda Bay in North Maluku.

Because the company formed to pursue the Weda Bay mine plan pre-dates the government’s tax holiday initiative, the company may otherwise be ineligible for the incentive that it sought. A contract of work for the proposed mine was signed with the national government in 1998.

Thamrin Sihite, the director general for coal and mineral resources at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said that the regulation providing a tax holiday, issued by the Finance Ministry, may not cover investment plans such as the one by Eramet.

“The thing is, the tax holiday is only for companies [incorporated] after the regulation was issued [in 2010],” Thamrin Sihite said after a meeting with a French trade delegation lead by Trade Minister Nicole Bricq in Jakarta on Wednesday.

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Sherritt facing demands from activist as chairman Ian Delaney retires – by Peter Koven (National Post – May 8, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

A turbulent period could be looming for Sherritt International Corp., as an activist investor is challenging the company just as its long-time chairman and figurehead retires.

Scott Leckie of Takota Asset Management is calling on Toronto-based Sherritt to buy back more stock and study a potential lawsuit against SNC-Lavalin Inc., which he believes is responsible for cost overruns and delays at the company’s Ambatovy nickel project. He said he took his complaints public after Sherritt ignored three private letters.

“[Sherritt CEO] David Pathe has said they’re in a position to respond to opportunities. To me that means they have excess capital above and beyond anything they’re going to need for the last bits and pieces of Ambatovy,” Mr. Leckie said in an interview.

Sherritt also quietly revealed in a filing that chairman Ian Delaney, 69, is retiring from the company and is not standing for re-election at the annual meeting later this month.

He has been Sherritt’s dominant personality since he seized control of it in a proxy fight in 1990, and his departure leaves a major gap. But it does not come as a shock; in late 2011, he passed the CEO job on to Mr. Pathe and said he was content with the state of the company.

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Antam, Vale back on their feet due to increased sales volume – by Raras Cahyafitri (Jakarta Post – May 01 2013)


Listed nickel miners PT Aneka Tambang and PT Vale Indonesia are reporting increased net profits in the first quarter of the year due to higher sales volumes offsetting price pressure.

Aneka Tambang (Antam) reported booking Rp 462.43 billion (US$47 million) in net profits in the first three months of the year, up from Rp 379.19 billion in the same period last year, while Vale recorded $31.5 million in net profits, up 728 percent from $3.8 million.

“In the first quarter, our export volume of nickel ore increased and gold sales also rose, although their prices were almost similar to last year,” outgoing Antam president director Alwinsyah Lubis said after the company’s annual general meeting of shareholders on Tuesday.

Antam also reported that its sales volume for gold in the first quarter was up 63 percent to 93,526 troy ounces. Meanwhile, the firm’s gold sales were Rp 1.55 trillion, up 71 percent year-on-year, contributing 46.5 percent to Antam’s total revenues of Rp 3.34 trillion during the January-to-March period, up 35.5 percent from Rp 2.46 trillion in the same period last year.

Antam’s sales of nickel ore contributed about 33 percent of toal revenues, or Rp 1.12 trillion in the first three months of the year, up 67 percent compared to Rp 662 billion year-on-year, according to the company’s financial report.

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Sulawesi Mining to Invest $1.06b in Smelter – by Damiana Ningsih Simanjuntak (Jakarta Globe – April 26, 2013)


Sulawesi Mining Investment, an Indonesian-Chinese joint venture company, plans to invest $1.06 billion in a Central Sulawesi nickel mining operation, including a plan to build a smelter, an industry executive said on Thursday.

Alexander Barus, vice president of Bintangdelapan Mineral, the Indonesian firm in the venture, said that some $96 million would go toward the smelter and support the power plant in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, while $100 million would be for the mine and supporting facilities.

Halim Mina, vice president commissioner of Sulawesi Mining, said that the investment would be split into two stages. “For the first phase, the investment will stand at $340 million and the second phase at $640 million,” Halim said.

“The plan is for the first phase to become operational at the end of 2014,” he added, noting that about 30 percent of the first phase had already been completed.

He said the smelter’s output would mostly be exported to China, but gave no details, adding only that its products would be marketed domestically “in line with the demand” for nickel.

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Vale Says Some Progress Made on Contract Talks – by Muhamad Al Azhari (Jakarta Globe – April 24, 2013)


Vale Indonesia, the local unit of the global nickel giant, says it has made progress in mining contract renegotiations with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

“There are four items that we continue to discuss,” Vale president director Nico Kanter told reporters after a shareholders meeting in South Jakarta on Tuesday, declining to reveal more specific details on the talks. “We are optimistic. … If the government has good intentions, we also have good intentions.”

Nico said the company’s $2 billion nickel smelter plan will depend on the outcome of the renegotiations. “We have plans to boost the capacity of the smelter that we already have. Our target is to produce 120,000 tons of nickel in 2017,” Nico said.

Several miners are currently renegotiating their contracts after the passage of a 2009 mining law designed to elicit more local benefits from the sector, by increasing the royalties paid by miners and adding value to mineral commodities exports.

The 2009 law included an obligation for miners to submit plans to process raw materials domestically before 2014, limits on concession areas, higher royalties for the government and an obligation for foreign miners to gradually divest their shares to local entities five years after production commences.

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NEWS RELEASE: Koniambo Nickel produces first nickel metal; on track to achieve full production rate by the end of 2014 Koné, 11 April 2013

Xstrata Nickel’s Koniambo Nickel project has gone into production with first metal tapped this week.

Production marks a key milestone for this complex $5 billion greenfield project in New Caledonia, which has been under construction for the past six years and has been a flagship component of Xstrata’s organic growth programme. At the height of its construction more than 6,000 people were employed in building the project and its associated infrastructure.

First metal production signals the start of Koniambo Nickel as a multi-decade, tier one asset with long-term cash costs at the bottom of the second quartile. At peak production the mine will further cement New Caledonia’s position as one of the most important nickel producers in the world and provide steady employment for approximately 800 workers, with a focus on local employment, and indirect employment for thousands of others.

Ian Pearce, Chief Executive of Xstrata Nickel, said: “All components of the mining and smelting process have now been successfully tested, leading to production of metal from Line 1. The production of first nickel metal at Koniambo after six years of complex design and construction is a huge achievement and a source of great pride for all of our employees. We are on track to deliver the full production rate of 60,000 tonnes per annum by the end of 2014 as scheduled, while maintaining excellence in terms of environmental and safety performance at this world-class industrial complex.”

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Xstrata starts nickel mining in New Caledonia – by Esmarie Swanepoel (MiningWeekly.com – April 12, 2013)


PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Swiss-listed Xstrata’s nickel division has started production at its Koniambo project, in New Caledonia.

The diversified miner said on Friday that the start of production marked a key milestone for the $5-billion greenfield project, which has been under construction for the past six years and has been a flagship component of Xstrata’s organic growth programme.

“We are on track to deliver the full production rate of 60 000 t/y by the end of 2014 as scheduled, while maintaining excellence in terms of environmental and safety performance at this world-class industrial complex,” said Xstrata Nickel CEO Ian Pearce.

“All components of the mining and smelting process have now been successfully tested, leading to production of metal from Line 1. The production of first nickel metal at Koniambo after six years of complex design and construction is a huge achievement and a source of great pride for all of our employees,” he added.

At the height of its construction, more than 6 000 people were employed in building the project and its associated infrastructure.

First metal production signaled the start of Koniambo as a multi-decade, tier-one asset with long-term cash costs at the bottom of the second quartile, said Pearc.

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Cuba hopes to keep nickel output above 60,000 tonnes – by Marc Frank (Reuters U.S. – March 26, 2013)


HAVANA, March 26 (Reuters) – The Cuban nickel industry plans to produce around 62,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt in 2013, according to local and foreign company reports, following the closing of one of three processing plants last year.

The provincial radio station of Eastern Holguin, Radio Angulo, reported on Monday evening that the Cubaniquel-owned Ernesto Che Guevara plant in Moa, after experiencing production problems over the last few years, was now running up to speed.

The station quoted the plant’s manager, Rogelio Polanco Fuentes, as stating, “the plant is in condition to meet this year’s plan of 23,700 tonnes.”

Canadian mining company Sherritt International, a joint venture partner with Cubaniquel in the only other open plant, the Pedro Soto Alba, also in Moa, recently reported 2012 output as 38,054 tonnes and said it expected a similar performance in 2013.

State monopoly Cubaniquel and Sherritt are also partners in a Canadian refinery where output from the Pedro Soto Alba plant is shipped, and after refining is marketed by yet another venture between them.

China and Europe also purchase Cuban nickel products, the country’s most important exports and one of its top foreign exchange earners after technical services and tourism.

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