Nickel Sulfide Versus Laterite: The Hard Sustainability Challenge Remains – by Gavin M. Mudd (2009)

Gavin M. Mudd works at the Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, CLAYTON, Victoria, Australia 3800 (

“A major concern with this increasing proportion of laterite nickel is that, although technology such as HPAL now exists to make processing of laterite ores more viable (technically and financially), it is widely perceived to be at a higher environmental cost.” (Gavin M. Mudd – 2009)


There are widespread nickel resources around the world, but divided principally between nickel sulfide or laterite (oxide) resources. Historically production has been dominated by sulfide ores but future production is increasing shifting to laterite ores. The principal reason for this historically is that sulfide ores are easier to process, through conventional mining, smelting and refining, compared to laterite ores which require intensive hydrometallurgical processing (such as high pressure acid leaching or HPAL).

This means that laterite ores typically require substantially more energy and chemicals to produce than sulfide nickel. Given that many major nickel companies report annually on their sustainability performance, such as Eramet, Inco (now Vale Inco), WMC Resources (now BHP Billiton), Norilsk Nickel, there is data available to examine in detail the differences in the environmental costs of nickel sulfide versus laterite.

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The Charges Against Big Nickel [in 1946 by U.S. government] – by Richard Mills (Jun 9, 2011)

Richard Mills owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this report and none are advertisers on his site

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

In 1946, in New York City, the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice filed a complaint against Inco and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, International Nickel Co. Inc.

Canada’s Inco, at the time, owned 90% of the world’s nickel ore and supplied 90% of U.S. nickel needs.

The charges brought were:

■Conspiracy to prevent competition in the nickel industry
■Fixing prices
■Making cartel agreements with I. G. Farbenindustrie, A. G. and two French companies to prevent competition and peg prices in the world market

The Department of Justice said the nickel industry ceased to be competitive earlier in the century when Charles Schwab arranged a merger between Canadian companies with nickel ore and U.S. companies with the chemical process for separating nickel from copper. Holdings of this combine were consolidated under Inco, Ltd. in 1928.

How ironic that in 2010 the US did not have any active nickel mines. Nickel has a very interesting history and is still extremely important in the everyday functioning of our modern economies.

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Is a Profitable Nickel Laterite (HPAL) Mine a ‘Black Swan’? – by Patrick Whiteway (Canadian Mining Review Blog – January 31, 2011)

Canadian Mining Review: Discussing ideas and issues related to mining in Canada 

Thoughts on mining nickel laterites inspired by two recent books: ‘Linkages of Sustainability’ and ‘The Black Swan.’  

It’s October 2008 and I’m relaxing in a second-row seat of an air conditioned tour bus. It’s crossing the Swan River in beautiful downtown Perth, Australia, when the driver suggests to passangers that the river should be called the Black Swan River. That’s because 300 years ago, he explains, European explorers first visited this part of Western Australia and saw black swans for the very first time. Up until then, the only swans they had seen were white ones. Seeing black swans on this wide, lazy river revolutionized their thinking.

Reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling book “The Black Swan,” could revolutionize your thinking. This book is all about highly improbable events. Taleb skillfully questions how we think about these events that turn out to have serious consequences. He calls them ‘black swans’ and as I’ll show here, they have a significant role to play in the mining industry.

As a Canadian mine engineer who has visited and written reports on many mines in Canada, I can tell you that improbable events, sometimes called simply luck, surprises, randomness or human error, have enormous consequences for the success or failure of many mines. The only successful, high pressure acid leach (or HPAL) nickel laterite operation in Australia is one of my favorite examples.

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Surging costs delay Sherritt [Madagascar Ambatovy nickel] project – by Brenda Bouw (Globe and Mail – June 15, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media. Brenda Bouw is the Globe’s mining reporter.

Sherritt International Corp. is the latest in growing list of mining companies to report double-digit cost increases and project delays resulting from surging prices for energy and raw materials.

Toronto-based Sherritt said the total cost of its 40-per-cent owned Ambatovy nickel-cobalt project in Madagascar is expected to rise 16 per cent to $5.5-billion (U.S.). Production, set to begin this summer, is now delayed until the first quarter of next year.

“We find this embarrassing and painful,” Sherritt chief executive officer Ian Delaney told investors on a conference call Tuesday. Sherritt’s stock fell 6 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, its lowest level since last summer.

Rising costs are becoming a huge hurdle for miners as they rush to boost production and capitalize on global demand and metal prices while they remain strong.

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Sustainability In Nickel Projects: 50 Years of Experience at Vale Inco – by S.W. Marcuson, J. Hooper, R.C. Osborne, K. Chow and J. Burchell (December 1, 2009)

The principal author, Dr. Sam Marcuson ( ) is vice-president, business improvement for Vale Inco Limited, Mississauga, ON, Canada. This article was adapted from a plenary speech made at the CIM Conference of Metallurgists held August 2009 in Sudbury, Ontario. The full paper is available from the author or the conference proceedings.

Looking at the industry’s past and present with a view to projecting into the future can be a valuable exercise for executing and maintaining sustainable development

The first eight years of this century saw rapid growth in the consumption and production of nickel and related commodities. In response to growth in the BRIC countries, but especially China, new projects, many in under-developed countries, were initiated. Nickel pig iron, produced in aging Chinese blast furnaces, unexpectedly emerged. Simultaneously, scientists concluded that global warming is “unequivocal” and human activity is the main driver, “very likely” (>90%) causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950[1]. These factors point to a future in which sustainable development becomes of paramount interest to the mining and metallurgy industry.

To the practicing metallurgist and operator, “sustainability” may appear as keeping employees safe, meeting prevailing environmental regulations and contributing to social programs contractually agreed to, while maintaining a low-cost operation that meets production and financial targets. But this is a highly simplified view that ignores many of the sustainability concepts.

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An Overview of Nickel in 2011 – Excerpt From Global Mining Finance 2011

Global Mining Finance was created four years ago as an annual book to provide international mining executives and their peers in the financial community with an overview of the industry from a World-wide perspective. For the main website:

The following research on nickel was provided by Paradigm Capital, a research-driven investment dealer, providing Research, Trade Execution and Investment Banking services.

Commodity Focus – Nickel

Two-thirds of all nickel produced goes into stainless steel, but is also important in the world of hi-tech where the soft magnetic properties of nickel and its alloys are employed. In this article, Paradigm Capital takes a look at the market for nickel.

Demand: Driven by The Stainless Steel Recovery

Nickel has a high rate of recyclability, This distinction is often made between the use of newly produced metal and recycled scrap. By far the most important first use of nickel is the production of stainless steel which accounts for over 60% of total demand with other first-use sectors being alloys, casting, electroplating, chemicals and batteries. The stainless steel sector is growing at a CAGR of about 5-6% per annum.

The nickel market rebounded strongly in 2010 compared to a very weak 2009, as a result of improved stainless steel demand conditions in combination with an amplified restocking period. In addition, the austenitic ratio (i.e. nickel bearing stainless steel) which has traditionally run at around the 75% level, has slipped lower. This was due to nickel’s meteoric price rise in 2007 to $25/lb. which proved to be the catalyst that triggered substitution, particularly into lower nickel bearing intra stainless steel grades. This proved to be one of the double whammies.

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News Release: Sherritt Provides Update on the Ambatovy Project


Click here to view: Sherritt International Corporation 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

TORONTO, December 17, 2010 – Sherritt International Corporation (“Sherritt) (TSX:S) announced today the approval of increased capital costs for the Ambatovy Project to a total budget of US$4.76 billion, which includes a contingency of US$50 million. Sherritt intends to fund its 40% share of the capital cost increase directly.

During second-quarter 2010, the construction of the power plant, which was being executed under a turn-key contract, was identified as having high potential for delay in completion. The
slower construction progress on the power plant attracted additional costs in terms of management and engineering personnel and is the major contributing factor to the higher expected capital cost. During third-quarter 2010, Sherritt and the EPCM contractor assumed control of construction of the power plant.

Ian W. Delaney, Chairman and CEO of Sherritt commented, “We have thoroughly reviewed every facet of this Project and I am confident the required steps have been taken to keep it on track to produce metal by the summer of 2011. While the variance from our original capital projection is 5%, we felt the steps taken were necessary to ensure that the plant will operate as designed, and that we can ramp up production at a rate which will enable nickel to be delivered to customers as early as possible.”

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News Release: Sherritt to acquire a controlling interest in the Sulawesi Nickel Project


Click here to view: Sherritt International Corporation 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

TORONTO, December 1, 2010 – Sherritt International Corporation (“Sherritt” or the “Corporation”) (TSX: S) today announced it has executed an earn-in and shareholders agreement with a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Limited (“Rio Tinto”) whereby Sherritt will acquire an interest in the Sulawesi Nickel Project (the “Sulawesi Project”) in Indonesia. Subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, Sherritt will acquire a controlling 57.5% equity interest in the holding company that owns the Sulawesi Project, and Rio Tinto will continue to hold the remaining 42.5%. Sherritt has been appointed as the Operator and will license its commercially-proven, proprietary technology to the Project. As consideration for its interest, Sherritt has committed to fund US$110 million towards producing a feasibility study from which a development decision will be made.

In compliance with Indonesia’s Mining Law, local Indonesian interests are expected to acquire a 20% interest in the Project. Following that event, Sherritt and Rio Tinto together will indirectly own and control an 80% interest in the Sulawesi Project, which will give Sherritt a controlling interest and a 46% economic interest with Rio Tinto maintaining a 34% economic interest.

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Sherritt International Corporation Chairman and CEO, Ian W. Delaney on Corporate Social Responsibility

Sherritt International Corp. Chairman and CEO Ian W. Delaney (photo-Sherritt)

Ian W. Delaney’s message to stakeholders came from the Sherritt International Corporation 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

In 2009, Sherritt continued to maintain an enviable record in successfully managing the environmental, health and safety aspects of its business. We recognize that as a diversified natural resource company, our business by its very nature impacts both the natural and social environments of the countries and communities in which we operate.

The nature of our business also demands that we enter into and honour many long-term commitments in multiple jurisdictions in order to cultivate and maintain the social license we must rely upon to successfully conduct business over the long term. We work closely with governments, communities and many other stakeholders on an ongoing basis to demonstrate our commitment to social responsibility. We also demonstrate this long-term commitment through donations and other forms of community investment as well as active engagement of employees in many local initiatives.

Sherritt has always been a safe place to work. We regard this fact not only as being the ethical way to operate, but also as an integral part of operating efficiency. Operating efficiency means doing things right and that includes doing them safely. Cutting corners in environmental, health and safety matters is bad business. It can lead to human loss, reputational loss and ultimately financial loss. We best serve our investors and other stakeholders by conscientiously managing a safe workplace and maintaining our stewardship of the environment.

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Castro’s Favourite Capitalist- by Rachel Pulfer (Walrus Magazine, December, 2009)

The Walrus is a Canadian general interest magazine which publishes long form journalism on Canadian and international affairs, along with fiction and poetry by Canadian writers. It launched in September 2003, as an attempt to create a Canadian equivalent to American magazines such as Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker.

Will Sherritt International come to regret dealing with Communist Cuba? CEO Ian Delaney doesn’t think so.

The sun is rising over Old Havana, but the man standing at the balcony rail is in the shade. He gazes out over the city’s crumbling rooftops but seems oblivious to the sun-washed beauty of the harbour. His stare is blank, disengaged. He will give only his first name, Rodolfo. He is the operator of the camera obscura. One of many curiosities in the old port, the centuries-old technology uses a system of mirrors to project a 360-degree view of the exterior onto a bowl-shaped interior screen. Fidel Castro reportedly had the camera installed to ensure that he could see all parts of Havana from a protected vantage point. It’s now a tourist attraction.

“I was a teacher,” says Rodolfo. “I was earning less than 20 convertible pesos [around $25] a month. Then, last summer, I got on with Sherritt. With a bonus, my salary bumped up to 50 convertible pesos a month.” Unfortunately, his prosperity was short lived. Earlier this year, the project was cut. “If you know anyone at Sherritt, please talk to them,” he says. “Get them to start it back up.”

The camera obscura is now Rodolfo’s principal source of income. With a monthly salary of 16 convertible pesos, he is one of millions of Cubans who are barely hanging on. Last year, the country’s agricultural sector was knocked out, due to a particularly fierce hurricane season. That, and collapsing markets for Cuban commodities — primarily nickel, oil, and gas — plunged the island into its toughest economic crisis in a generation. With deficits soaring and cash reserves low, the government is delaying payments on profit-sharing agreements with foreign investors, even going so far as to cancel the one to which Rodolfo alludes. This has forced a difficult balancing act on Ian Delaney — Cuba’s biggest outside investor, Rodolfo’s former employer, and the man known on Bay Street as Fidel Castro’s favourite capitalist.

Delaney is CEO and chairman of Sherritt International, a multi-billion-dollar commodities conglomerate based in Toronto. Eighteen years ago, he made a deal with the Cuban Communist leader.

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Dirty Nickel Pig Iron’s Pollution, Cost and Impurities are Obstacles for China and No Threat to Sudbury – by Nick Stewart

This article was originally posted on the Northern Life website on June 23, 2010.

The threat that Chinese-produced nickel pig iron poses to Sudbury’s nickel producers is overblown, according to mining analyst Raymond Goldie.

Speaking to the 11th International Platinum Symposium at Laurentian University’s Fraser Auditorium June 22, Goldie said that nickel pig iron — a low-cost substitute for refined nickel — is too flawed to pose a serious long-term threat.

“There’s two big problems with pig nickel,” Goldie, senior mining analyst and vice-president of Toronto-based Salman Partners, said. “Firstly, it’s dirty, and second, making it is dirty. It is in fact too dirty to be the sole source of nickel in stainless steel.”

Nickel pig iron is made by putting nickel-rich dirt in a specialized furnace. However, the end product is riddled with impurities, and must be blended with pure or virgin nickel to make stainless steel. For every pound of pig nickel, four pounds of virgin nickel is required.

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Nickel Pig Iron Equals “Dirty Nickel” – Sudbury Nickel is Sustainable and Clean – Stan Sudol

Last Saturday’s (June 12, 2010) Globe and Mail’s Report on Business article on Nickel Pig Iron and its hyped headlines that inferred serious trouble for Sudbury, Canada’s largest nickel producing region was bit overblown. While the subject of Nickel Pig Iron has made a major impact in the global nickel markets, reporter Andy Hoffman had overlooked a few key issues that significantly downplay the impact of Nickel Pig Iron on the Sudbury Basin, which remains the richest mining region in North America and among the top ten most significant globally.

Nickel Pig Iron has been around for at least half a decade or longer. It will probably put a cap on the price of nickel though one very knowledgable source feels the $8.50 level mentioned in the Globe and Mail article is at the low end. When you factor in rising labour costs in China, the cost of power and the environmental impacts in the Philippines and Indonesia, the cost per pound is really in the $12.00 range.

I might add the Nickel Pig Iron is in reality “Dirty Nickel.” The processing of the material in blast furnaces in China is an environmental nightmare. In addition, the small companies that supply the material to China are probably not restoring the strip-mined jungle that is the source of this low grade nickel ore. Those are the companies that NGOs should be going after, not environmentally responsible corporations like Vale, Barrick, BHP-Billiton or Teck.

The high-quality pure nickel produced in the Sudbury Basin is done under strict first-world enviromental, health and safety standards. The rich Sudbury Basin ore also contains copper, gold, silver, platinum, cobalt and a few other metals. Nickel Pig Iron only gets cash credits for the iron content.

In addition, Nickel Pig Iron can only be used for low-end stainless steel products. Jet engines and many high-end industrial applications must use pure nickel to produce the specialized stainless steel and nickel-based super alloys for their applications.

And one more point, digging up vast tracks of virgin jungle and shipping this “low-grade nickel mud” to China adds very little sustainable value to the countries allowing this to happen, except to well-connected landowners or a few junior mining companies. As the world begins to understand the unsustainable mining practices that the production of Nickel Pig Iron entails, there may be more opposition to its use.

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A Breakthrough in China, [Nickel Pig Iron] Another Blow for Sudbury – by Andy Hoffman (Globe and Mail-June 15, 2010)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.

This article was the cover story of the Saturday, June 12, 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business section.

No longer just a low-wage workshop, China is reshaping world markets through innovation – including a revolutionary alloy that takes aim at Canada’s nickel belt

Andy Hoffman, Asia-Pacific Reporter – Xuzhou, China

Ask Li Guang about the prospects for his business and a self-assured grin creeps across the young executive’s face. It’s a smile that means trouble for Canada’s nickel-mining capital of Sudbury, Ont., more than 11,000 kilometres away from Mr. Li’s office in eastern China .

“Our production has quite a lot of advantages compared to refined nickel,” says the budding metals titan, who is all of 30 years old and dressed in a short-sleeve dress shirt and black jeans. “Now, in China, many other enterprises are going to enter this market. Gradually they will take over a lot of the share of refined nickel.”

Mr. Li and his company, Jiangsu Mingzhu, are among the many Chinese manufacturers churning out a revolutionary product known as nickel pig iron or NPI. Despite its prosaic name, the alloy has set the global nickel industry on its ear by providing a low-cost alternative to the refined nickel that has typically been used to make stainless steel. Cheap NPI threatens to squelch demand for the refined metal, which is produced in places like Sudbury, as well as in Russia and Australia.

In less than five years, NPI has reshaped the world nickel industry, marking a new stage in China’s capitalist evolution. Since it opened itself to trade in the late 1970s, the Asian nation has become famous for two things – lowering the price of manufactured products with its cheap labour costs, and driving up the price of commodities with its aggressive demand. Now it is altering the fundamentals of a vital industrial sector with a homespun innovation.

NPI, a material produced in low-tech Chinese factories, already accounts for as much as 10 per cent of the world’s $21-billion-a-year nickel market, more than all the nickel that can be produced annually in Sudbury. Some analysts expect China’s NPI producers to double their output this year.

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Sherritt International at Eighty – Marching to a Different Drum – by Jane Werniuk (Part 2 of 2)

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication.

This article was originally published – February/2008

Coal division

Coal contributed 7% of Sherritt’s revenue in the first nine months of 2007.

2003 was a pivotal year for the coal industry in western Canada, when the two major ownership groups exchanged thermal and metallurgical coal assets. Through its ownership of Luscar Coal Income Fund, Sherritt consolidated its holdings in thermal coal, while metallurgical coal was consolidated in the Elk Valley Coal Partnership.

Sherritt International and the Ontario Teachers’Pension Plan each own 41.2% interest in the Royal Utilities Income Fund, which controls Prairie Mines & Royalty Ltd. Sherritt manages the operations at PMRL’s eight surface mines in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The production from these mines is almost all sold to nearby coal-fired electrical generating plants. As well, Sherritt and the Ontario Teachers’ each own half of the Coal Valley export thermal coal mine in Alberta, which is operated by Sherritt.

While coal was not initially one of Sherritt’s traditional core businesses, it is now a substantial part of the Sherritt puzzle. The company moves 500 million tonnes (t) of material each year to mine 40 million t of coal, making Sherritt the largest surface miner in Canada.

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Sherritt International at Eighty – Marching to a Different Drum – by Jane Werniuk (Part 1 of 2)

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication.

This article was originally published – February/2008

Sherritt International is a resources company built from the bricks of a Canadian nickel miner, which recently celebrated its 80th anniversary, shown by the timeline in this article. Despite the intervening decades and corporate upheavals, Sherritt is still a nickel company grounded in the strength of its research, technical innovation and operational expertise. But it has become international, and is aggressively focusing on growth in all its business units–metals, coal, power generation, and oil and gas.

In a recent two-hour interview with the company’s president and CEO Jowdat Waheed at its uptown Toronto head office, I learned that Sherritt has decided to get its story in front of the public, which prompted Waheed to invite me to visit the company’s metals, technology and coal offices and facilities in western Canada followed by a trip to see its Cuban assets, all in four days in early February. It is from this brief immersion that I bring you a snapshot of Sherritt International, today.

Metals division

This is by far the largest part of the company, bringing in 62% of Sherritt’s revenue and 80% of its operating earnings in the first nine months of 2007.

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