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Appian Capital in talks to sell Atlantic Nickel for $1bn

The Santa Rita nickel-cobalt mine in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia. (Image courtesy of Atlantic Nickel.)

London-based private equity fund Appian Capital is said to be in advanced negotiations to sell its Atlantic Nickel unit in Brazil for around $1 billion, with Canada’s Teck Resources (TSX: TECK.A | TECK.B) (NYSE: TCK) cited as one of the likely buyers. 

According to O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, the Vancouver-based miner’s main interest is Atlantic Nickel’s Santa Rita open pit nickel-cobalt mine, in the northeastern state of Bahia.  

A Teck spokesperson told MINING.COM that the company does not comment on market rumours or speculation.

One of the largest open-pit nickel sulphide mines in the world, the Santa Rita was operated by Mirabela Nickel for six years, prior to being placed on care and maintenance due to the low nickel prices in 2015. 

Appian, which acquired the mine in 2018 from Mirabela Nickel as part of a bankruptcy process, is reportedly looking to recover the capital sunken into bringing the past-producing mine back online, which happened in early 2020. The sum has been estimated at $1 billion, according to the company’s website

Atlantic Nickel owns the Santa rita mine, one of the world’s largest open pit nickel sulphide mines

Open-pit operations, expected to last until 2028, have an estimated annual production capacity of 16.5ktpa of nickel in sulphide concentrate. Santa Rita will then be transitioned into an underground mining operation, extending the life of the mine from eight to 34 years, Atlantic Nickel has said. 

Based on a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for Santa Rita published a year ago, open-pit measured and indicated resources stand at 59.15 million tonnes grading 0.33% nickel sulphide, 0.11% copper, 0.01% cobalt, 0.03 gram palladium per tonne, 0.06 gram platinum per tonne, and 0.04 gram gold per tonne.   

Indicated resources for the underground mine tally 54.59 million tonnes grading 0.58% nickel sulphide, 0.18% copper, 0.01% cobalt, 0.05 gram palladium, 0.10 gram platinum and 0.07 gram gold. 

Last week, the company shipped 11,121.44 tonnes of nickel concentrate, the largest amount it has sold so far this year, and which took annual exports to over 80,000 tonnes. 

Nickel’s usage is growing in lithium-ion batteries and the accelerated roll-out of electric vehicles is making certain types of the metal popular among investors, as it can be processed into battery precursor materials. 

The more traditional use of nickel is in the processing of stainless steel for kitchen appliances and utensils. 

Analysts expect shortages of copper, cobalt, nickel and other industrial materials needed for the shift to a low carbon world, partly due to underinvestment in the mining sector and accelerating demand.