Canadian company Royal Nickel Corporation reports that Tsingshan Holding Group, a party with whom it entered a strategic alliance in March 2013, is constructing the world’s first integrated nickel pig iron (NPI) plant to utilize nickel sulphide concentrate as part of the stainless steel production process. The plant is expected to begin operation this year.

This significant innovation represents the first time that nickel sulphide concentrate will be directly used to create stainless steel. This innovation offers significant potential benefits to producers of suitable nickel sulphide concentrate feed including lower costs due to simpler processing compared to traditional smelting and refining, and greater flexibility for more potential partners and customers.

The plant is also expected to be possibly capable of handling nickel sulphide concentrate anticipated to be produced from Royal Nickel’s Dumont Nickel Project in the established Abitibi mining camp, in the municipalities of Launay and Trécesson, 25km northwest of Amos, Quebec.

Royal Nickel’s interim president and CEO Mark Selby says, “The Tsingshan plant in China is an industry first and a positive development for projects such as Dumont. This process represents a new source of demand for nickel sulphide concentrate notably at a time when many NPI and ferronickel producers face feed shortages as a result of Indonesia’s recently implemented nickel ore export ban. We view Tsingshan’s investment in this pioneering process as a significant and positive development for the nickel sector, and for Royal Nickel.”

While the formal memorandum of understanding between Royal Nickel and Tsingshan expired on December 31, 2013, the two companies are still in discussions with respect to securing additional sources of near-term feed for use in Tsingshan’s new processing facilities and the potential for Tsingshan to participate in the Dumont project through a concentrate offtake proposal.

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