Nickel developer Australian Mines gets state loan offer

Bulk sample bags of ore from the Sconi project being loaded ahead of transport to the demonstration-size plant in Perth. (Image courtesy of Australian Mines)

Australian Mines Ltd said on Wednesday the government of Queensland state has offered the mine developer a financial support package for its Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project, sending its shares soaring about 60%.

The company said in a statement that the state support package, a part of Queenland’s Jobs and Regional Growth Fund, specifies that Australian Mines needs to find a buyer by Sept. 30 for 100% of the nickel and cobalt sulphate to be produced from the project.

By 0303 GMT Australian Mines shares were up 56% at A$0.014 in their best intraday session since December 2018.

The details of the financial support on offer were not disclosed by the company. It said it must employ at least 191 people in Queensland, on a full-time and ongoing basis by June 2024 under terms of the agreement.

“This project has the potential to support the regional economy and hundreds of jobs,” said Glenn Butcher, Queenland’s Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing.

A deal between Australian Mines to supply South Korean battery maker SK Innovation Co Ltd collapsed last year.

Australia is the world’s biggest supplier of lithium and has significant nickel and cobalt reserves – key components in batteries for electric vehicles (EV).

However, miners of battery materials have been impacted by a prolonged downturn in prices amid slowing sales in China, the world’s top EV market, that worsened after a hit to demand as a result of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

London nickel prices have dropped by 27% from peaks seen last September, and are down 3% for the year so far.

(By Shruti Sonal; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Kenneth Maxwell)

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