China's Jinchuan confident it can fill Indonesia nickel ore void

YICHANG, China (Reuters) - China’s top nickel producer Jinchuan Group will feel some impact from Indonesia’s ban on ore exports from 2020, but will be able to plug the supply gap, partly by using its own mines, a company executive said on Tuesday.

Indonesia, the largest nickel ore producing country, has left its biggest customers in China - mostly manufacturers of primary nickel - fearing a raw material shortage after bringing forward a ban on ore exports to Jan. 1, 2020.

China’s imports of nickel ore and concentrate from Indonesia in September rose to the highest monthly volume since at least 2016 at around 2.5 million tonnes, about 35% of its total imports of the commodity, official data showed.

“Indonesia should have some impact,” Jack Zhou, general manager of Jinchuan Group Nickel Salts Co, told Reuters on the sidelines of the China International Nickel and Cobalt Industry Forum in Yichang.

“But we at Jinchuan will be able to make up the deficit (from) our own ore assets and mines in Qinghai. We can use all of that,” he said.

Qinghai is a province in northwestern China that borders Jinchuan’s home province of Gansu.

Jinchuan will produce around 180,000 tonnes of nickel this year, more than last year, said Zhou, who was unsure of the percentage increase over 2018.

He said Jinchuan was also pursuing a project in Indonesia to make nickel pig iron, a raw material for stainless steel.

The initial capacity will be 10,000 tonnes a year, measuring by nickel content, said Zhou, although a launch date has not been determined.

Reporting by Tom Daly in YICHANG, China; Editing by Tom Hogue