SYDNEY, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for initial operations to begin next month at the $1.5 billion Ramu Nickel project, a shareholder said in a statement.
The Chinese majority-owned nickel and cobalt project, located about 75 km (47 miles) west of the northern city of Madang, has faced 18 months of delays on environmental concerns.
Australia-based minority shareholder Highlands Pacific said the Supreme Court on Friday rejected an application for an injunction that would have stopped the project using a system of deep sea placement of tailings from the mine with a pipeline.
It followed a similar ruling by the National Court of Madang on July 26.
Highlands holds 8.56 percent of the project. Metallurgical Corp of China leads a Chinese syndicate which holds 85 percent. The rest of the project is held by the Papua New Guinea government.
Ramu “will commence ore commissioning activities at the Basamuk treatment plant in September,” said John Gooding, managing director of Highlands Pacific, said, adding that the ruling meant operations could now proceed.
“The project should commission its first autoclave in coming months and produce its first nickel and cobalt in the weeks after as part of a conservative ramp up over the next 12-18 months.”
Ramu is expected to yield 31,150 tonnes a year of nickel and 3,300 a year of cobalt for at least 20 years following a roughly six-month commissioning period.
A separate appeal to the Supreme Court against the July 26 ruling is still to be heard, but Highlands Pacific said no date had been set for that hearing and it would not affect current commissioning plans. (Reporting by Sydney Newsroom +612 6273 2730; Editing by by Yoko Nishikawa)