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| Indonesia |
“Mining operations started in October 2019. PT Weda Bay nickel ore is aimed at supplying ferroalloy plants located on the island, starting with the JV. The today’s step is a key milestone for the development of economy and employment in Halmahera island, North Maluku, contributing to the sustainable development roadmap of eastern Indonesia and bringing value to the local communities.”
PT Weda Bay Nickel, the Indonesian joint venture between Eramet, Newstride Technology (controlled by Tsingshan Group) and PT Antam, recently announced the first nickel ferroalloy tapping out of furnace number 1 on 30 April, 2020.
This achievement took place ahead of initial schedule, just 20 months after the groundwork ceremony that kick-started the construction of the nickel pyrometallurgical unit on Halmahera Island, Indonesia.
Mining operations started in October 2019. PT Weda Bay nickel ore is aimed at supplying ferroalloy plants located on the island, starting with the Joint Venture. The company indicated that this was a key milestone for the development of economy and employment in Halmahera island, North Maluku, contributing to the sustainable development roadmap of eastern Indonesia and bringing value to the local communities.
This joint venture between Eramet, Tsingshan and PT Antam is now fully entering into operations. The ramp up will continue over the coming months, with the startup of the three other furnaces.
“The joint venture shareholders would like to commend the efforts of all the workers, contractors and project management teams who showed an exceptional commitment while facing the unprecedented situation of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.” indicated Eramet.
AN INTENSE RESEARCH PROJECT
It all began with a discovery: a nickel deposit on the island of Halmahera, in the northern reaches of the Maluku archipelago in Indonesia. The site, believed to be one of the largest in the world, attracted the attention of Eramet, which decided to acquire the deposit. It was purchased in 2006 from Weda Bay Capitals, Inc., the Canadian company that owned the site. Thus began a long period of preliminary analysis. This immense task confirmed expectations: and in fact, the total estimate for the deposit doubled, from 4 to 9.3 million tons of nickel content. This was nothing less than the largest unexploited nickel deposit in the world. The contract, which provides for a 30-year production period, may be renewed twice for a period of 10 years. At the time, the economic crisis was in full force, with the mining industry feeling the effects as nickel and manganese prices dropped. In 2013, the Weda Bay project entered a period of slowdown, and when Mitsubishi, Eramet’s partner, decided to withdraw from the project, it was time to find a new ally.
A CRITICAL PARTNERSHIP
That’s when Tsingshan came in. A giant on the Chinese market and the world’s largest stainless steel company, Tsingshan signed an agreement with Eramet in 2017. The two groups shared out the roles: Tsingshan took over construction and operation of the factories, as well as the infrastructure required for production. In addition to the deposit itself, Eramet brought its invaluable mining expertise, in a region that is particularly sensitive to erosion. Following Tsingshan’s investment, Eramet owned 43% of the company that controlled Weda Bay, and Tsingshan 57%.
“We bring our knowledge of the mine and offer recommendations to improve the project. In addition to the anticipated benefits, the collaboration with Tsingshan has allowed us to learn and strengthen our expertise even further.” explains Martin Cezard, Weda Bay Project Director at Eramet.
On the ground, the pyrometallurgical process developed for this project, which employs electric furnaces, is one of the most competitive in the world. Using the ore extracted from Weda Bay, the process will allow factories to produce low-grade ferronickel, also known as nickel pig iron (NPI), which is in high demand from the world’s major stainless steel customers