BEIJING, Nov 1 (Reuters) - North American Nickel should start producing at its flagship Maniitsoq project in Greenland by 2023 or 2024, when demand for nickel from electric vehicle (EV) batteries should be in full swing, the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) said on Tuesday.
The Toronto-based exploration company, which acquired the Maniitsoq licences five years ago, has invested over $50 million in exploration so far, CEO Keith Morrison told Reuters in an interview in Beijing, where he was attending the annual Greenland Day at the Danish embassy.
It will be at least another five years before it has finished exploration, completed feasibility studies and construction, and started selling its metals output.
“If we’re extremely lucky that’s a five-year process, if not six or seven. But that drops up right in the middle of the impact on the scalability of electric vehicles,” Morrison said.
Asked if a 2023 or 2024 launch was a realistic time frame, Morrison answered: “We should be there by then.”
The most-traded nickel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 6 percent on Wednesday - its daily limit under the Shanghai bourse’s trading rules - to 99,340 yuan ($14,967) a tonne, the highest in nearly 11 months.
The contract surged as nickel on the London Metal Exchange gained overnight because of the prospect of new demand from the EV battery makers.
Morrison, who also has experience of mining in Mongolia, describes Maniitsoq, located 125 km (78 miles) north of the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk, as a “big-scale nickel sulphide opportunity.”
The 2,985 square km (1,153 square miles) area also contains copper, cobalt and platinum group metals but is only accessible for about 100 days per year. North American Nickel also has nickel assets in Michigan and Sudbury, Ontario, Morrison said.
A lack of investment in base metals since 2008 has left global nickel markets facing a deficit of 200,000 to 250,000 tonnes of refined nickel and concentrates over the next five to 10 years, equivalent to 10 new mines, he said.
“And that doesn’t include the impact of the electric vehicle battery consumption,” which could mean an extra 300,000 to 600,000 tonnes per year of demand, he added.
Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Christian Schmollinger