(Updates with comments, details)
By Anna Stablum
LONDON, June 13 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP.AX) hopes to export more nickel concentrates to other processing plants over the next four months while its Australian nickel smelter and refinery is closed for repairs, the miner said on Friday.
“It will be sold into the market,” a BHP BLT.L spokesman in London told Reuters.
He declined to say how much more concentrate BHP would sell.
The repairs to the company’s furnace at its 100,000 tonne per year Kalgoorlie nickel smelter in Australia and the closure at its Kwinana refinery leaves the global miner with more concentrates available for the world market.
“As a consequence of the rebuild, Nickel West will endeavour to have more concentrate available for sale to the market,” BHP said in a statement to Reuters.
“This is however constrained by current nickel export rates through the Esperance port,” it added.
The spokesman declined to give more details, but said container and ship availability were the “natural constraints” at the port.
He said Nickel West purchases about 1.5 million tonnes of ore per year and the miner would continue “reasonable endeavours to maintain purchases”.
“During the rebuild, it is anticipated that the mines and concentrators at Mount Keith, Leinster and Kambalda will continue operating,” he said.
On Thursday, London Metal Exchange nickel MNI3 jumped 6 percent to $24,600 a tonne, the highest since May 22.
The shutdown of Kwinana will cut nickel sales by 25,000 tonnes in the year to June 2009, and by 3,000 tonnes for the current year to end-June, has BHP estimated.
Analysts in London said that if BHP succeeded in selling more concentrates to the market for processing in other plants, the overall impact on the nickel market would be reduced.
Nickel traded at $24,750/24,950, up 1 percent, by 1033 GMT.
Additional reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Christopher Johnson