Baowu and Vale to invest in Indonesian nickel project

Steelmaking process. (Image by China Baowu Steel)

China Baowu Group, the world’s top steelmaker, on Thursday said it would join forces with Vale and Shandong Xinhai Technology to make stainless steel raw material nickel pig iron (NPI) in Indonesia.

Baowu subsidiary Taigang Iron and Steel, China’s second-biggest stainless steel producer, signed a framework agreement with PT Vale Indonesia (PTVI) and NPI maker Xinhai to jointly operate the Bahodopi nickel processing facility in Morowali on the island of Sulawesi, a Baowu statement said.

Vale will hold 49% in the project, which is expected to produce 73,000 tonnes of NPI per year on a nickel content basis via eight rotary kiln electric furnaces (RKEFs), while China’s Baowu and Xinhai will split the remaining 51%.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest miner of nickel ore, has already attracted billions of dollars of Chinese investment in its nickel sector. It banned nickel ore exports from the start of 2020 as it sought to process more raw materials at home and develop downstream industry.

NPI can still be exported but Indonesia is considering a plan to restrict construction of NPI smelters to optimise use of its reserves for higher-value products, a senior mining ministry official said on Thursday.

Vale, one of the world’s top producers of iron ore and nickel, has been active in Indonesia since 1968 through PTVI, which mines nickel ore and makes intermediate product nickel matte.

The Bahodopi project will use electricity from natural gas-fired power stations for the smelting process, Baowu said, adding that carbon emissions would be cut by 60% as a result.

“We appreciate that our partners have joined us in our low-carbon agenda, agreeing to switch from coal to gas-fired power,” PTVI Chief Executive Febriany Eddy said in a Vale statement.

The three companies have agreed that all technical and financial requirements needed to make a final investment decision are to be completed within six months, the Vale statement added.

Neither statement put a value on the project.

(By Tom Daly and Min Zhang; Editing by David Evans)

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