Eramet said on Tuesday that New Caledonia had authorized its SLN subsidiary to export an additional 2 million tonnes of nickel ore per year, as part of steps to revive the struggling nickel producer.
The extra volume, which will allow SLN to export up to 6 million tonnes of nickel ore annually, has been a key demand of Eramet as it attempts to turn around the business that has faced recurring losses due to high costs.
The increase in exports to 6 million tonnes is expected to be achieved by 2024, Eramet said in a statement.
SLN is still ramping up exports to meet its previous allowance of 4 million tonnes. In October, Eramet reduced the unit’s export objective for 2021 to just over 3 million tonnes after a coronavirus wave in New Caledonia disrupted its activity.
SLN processes higher-content nickel ore at a local smelter, with exports covering lower-content ore.
As part of its agreement with the authorities, SLN is to invest 30 billion Pacific francs ($285.25 million) in its smelter and mines, it said in a separate statement.
Eramet has also been pushing for cheaper electricity for SLN’s smelter to help reduce costs. The group wants discussions to accelerate this year on energy supply, including a new power plant in New Caledonia, it added in its statement.
Eramet’s activities are concentrated in mining and processing nickel and manganese for the steel industry.
However, under Chairwoman and Chief Executive Christel Bories, the company has shifted its focus to developing raw materials for electric vehicle batteries.
($1 = 105.1700 Pacific francs)
(By Gus Trompiz and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Kim Coghill and Muralikumar Anantharaman)