Eramet's New Caledonia nickel smelter to boost power as blockades ease

PARIS (Reuters) - The nickel smelter of French group Eramet’s SLN subsidiary in New Caledonia will ramp up power again on Monday after the easing of blockades that disrupted ore supply, SLN said.

The blockades were an extension of protests against an agreement by Brazilian mining giant Vale to sell its New Caledonian nickel activities to a consortium including commodity trader Trafigura.

However, negotiations with protestors allowed blockades to be lifted at SLN’s Nepoui and Tiebaghi mines late last week, raising the prospect of a resumption in nickel ore shipments to the Doniambo smelter, SLN said in a statement issued on Sunday.

“As a result, it has been decided to revert to the normal functioning of the furnaces at Doniambo starting tomorrow, Monday December 21,” it said.

The Brazilian mining giant Vale’s agreement to sell its New Caledonian nickel activities

SLN had reduced power for the three furnaces to use less ore during the supply disruptions and warned it might have to shut one of the furnaces permanently.

Blockades were also due to be lifted at SLN’s two other mining sites, Thio and Kouaoua, public broadcaster Nouvelle-Caledonie La Premiere reported on Monday. An Eramet spokeswoman could not immediately confirm the report.

Vale’s proposed deal with the consortium triggered violent protests in the French Pacific territory, leading Vale to suspend its operations this month.

SLN said the unrest had cost it about 1.5 billion Pacific Francs ($15.3 million), adding to losses at the company as it tries to implement a rescue plan.

($1 = 97.8200 Pacific francs)

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by David Goodman