SYDNEY May 16 Global miner Vale late on Thursday submitted a report on an effluent spill at its nickel operations in New Caledonia to the local government, a government official said.
That was later than many observers had expected, possibly delaying the restart of operations closed after the spill last week, which helped send nickel prices soaring.
New Caledonia's southern provincial government is also undergoing a leadership change after an election at the weekend failed to result in an absolute majority, making an imminent restart more difficult.
Government officials said last week the province was starting legal proceedings against Vale over environmental damage caused by the spill.
Soon after the incident, Vale said it expected the shutdown of its Goro operations to be temporary. A spokesman for Vale declined to provide further details on Friday.
"Goro was always a difficult project to bring into the market, given its (processing) technology ... I think it will be longer than they're suggesting to bring it back to normal operations," said analyst Tom Price of UBS in Sydney.
Nickel prices had soared by more than 50 percent this year on supply concerns after Indonesia banned ore exports in January, hitting a 27-month peak of $21,625 a tonne on Tuesday. They had pared those gains to $19,034 by Friday.
Nickel buyers in China and Japan are scrambling to secure supplies as climbing prices and a fear of shortages boost demand for both refined metal and long-term ore contracts. (Reporting by Cecile Lefort and Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford)