Sumitomo Metal says on track for FID on Pomalaa nickel project by end-March

TOKYO, Nov 18 (Reuters) -

* Japanese miner and smelter Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is on track to finish a definitive feasibility study and make a final investment decision on the Pomalaa nickel project in Indonesia by the end of March, a senior executive said on Monday.

* If the decision is made by SMM, Japan’s biggest nickel smelter, and its local partner PT Vale Indonesia to go ahead, the plant with a capacity of about 40,000 tonnes of mixed sulphide nickel is expected to start production in mid-2020s, Nobuhiro Matsumoto, SMM’s executive officer, told an analyst meeting.

* The Sierra Gorda copper mine in Chile, owned by Polish miner KGHM, SMM and Sumitomo Corp, is planned to produce 108,000 tonnes of copper this year, above its May forecast of 104,000 tonnes and the 97,000 tonnes produced in 2018, Hiroshi Asahi, SMM’s managing executive officer, said.

* Chile’s Quebrada Blanca 2 copper project, in which SMM bought 25% stake this year, is progressing as planned, while the Cote gold project in Canada, in which SMM holds a 27.75% stake, may be delayed from the current plan to start production in 2021, Asahi said.

* SMM, which supplies the nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) cathode materials used in Panasonic Corp’s lithium-ion battery that powers Tesla Inc’s Model 3 and Model X cars, is in talks with automakers and battery makers to supply nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode materials, Isao Abe, SMM’s executive officer, said.

* SMM aims to boost output of NMC to account for about 40% of its targeted monthly output capacity of 10,000 tonnes of cathode materials by March 2028, while NCA will make up the remaining 60%, Abe said.

* The trend to make cathode with higher nickel content and less cobalt will likely continue despite falling cobalt prices, Abe said, as automakers continue to seek larger battery capacity and due to political and social concerns over cobalt supplies, including the use of child labour.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Mark Potter