Austmine has added a new location to its overseas mission destinations in 2015 - New Caledonia. Austmine’s mission to New Caledonia on May 4-8 will include site visits and meetings with the major players.

Austmine’s chief operating officer Robert Trzebski says the small island is the world’s fourth greatest supplier of nickel with that ranking set to improve over the next 10-15 years as production on several projects ramps up.

“There are three key players in the nickel sector in New Caledonia. French-owned ERAMET has been in the country for more than 120 years and operates mines there through subsidiary, SLN (Société Le Nickel). They have five operations, which are mostly concentrated in the centre of the island at Kouaoua, Thio, Nepoui, and Tiebaghi, not to mention the biggest nickel processing plant in the world, Doniambo.

“Vale is the second big player in town and has the formidable Goro Nickel project under its ownership in the south of the island. It began operations in August 2010 with more than 55 million tonnes of estimated mineral reserve. Estimated annual production is around 60,000 tonnes of nickel and 5000 tonnes of cobalt. It is an open pit operation with a processing plant on site.

“The third and final significant player is SMSP in joint ownership with Glencore Nickel. The Koniambo mine started open cut operations two years ago in the north of the country, again with a processing plant on site. Koniambo will be an important contributor to New Caledonia’s mining future, being a high-grade nickel deposit of 6.1 million tonnes of contained nickel that has a current forecast of 25 years of operations.”

Robert Trzebski says nickel is a very promising resource. “World demand is constantly growing, at an average annual rate of 5%. Supply has dropped off recently from two of the top exporting countries - Indonesia and the Philippines. In January 2014, Indonesia brought in a legislative change which means nickel ore must be processed in Indonesia before exporting it, instead of exporting the raw ore. However, the country doesn’t have capacity to currently process the volume of ore they would need to in order to maintain export levels, so this has inevitably resulted in delays. Floods late last year in the Philippines also naturally caused an impact on their nickel supply.

“Due to both of these incidents, there is anticipated to be a nickel shortage supply later this year. New Caledonia has an opportunity to take advantage of this and become the leading nickel provider in 10-15 years, and supply 20-25% of all the nickel in the world. Other current big players are Russia, Canada and Australia.

“New Caledonia is a small island, but with a tremendous wealth of both nickel and cobalt resources. Both Glencore and Vale globally are driving to save on production costs and improve safety and efficiency, so Australian METS who are aligned with these strategic goals certainly stand a good chance of success in this market. In fact, numerous companies have already done business in New Caledonia, such as ABB, Orica, Leighton Holdings, Hatch, ATCO and others.”

The number of companies Austmine we can take on the mission is limited to 12. Anyone who would like to register their interest can email Robert on [email protected]

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