Eramet's nickel plant in Indonesia to start ahead of schedule in H1 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - French miner and metals producer Eramet ERMT.PA said on Wednesday its Weda Bay Nickel plant in Indonesia would start operation ahead of schedule in the first half of 2020, and it reiterated production targets for this year.

Weda Bay, a nickel pig iron (NPI) project, is a nine-million-tonne nickel resource which will be run by Eramet and its joint venture partner, Tsingshan Holding Group.

The company is targeting production of 30,000 tonnes per annum of nickel content at Weda Bay of which 13,000 is offtake for Eramet.

“The plant’s ramp-up of production should benefit from a favorable backdrop for NPI, thanks to the establishment of the Indonesian ban,” the company said in a statement.

Indonesia, the world’s top producer of nickel, said in September it would ban ore exports of the metal from Jan. 1 next year as it seeks to process more of its resources at home.

The ban has helped push the benchmark nickel price CMNI3 up 50% to about $16,400 a tonne, making it the best performing metal on the London Metal Exchange this year.

Eramet previously flagged that Weda Bay would be ahead of schedule but had not provided a timeline. It said in September production would begin in the second half of 2020, reaching full capacity in 2021.

The company’s Paris-listed shares touched a one-month high and were up 4% by 1200 GMT.

Eramet mines manganese, nickel and mineral sands while its alloys division produces steel.

The miner said nickel cash costs at its SLN plant in New Caledonia fell to $5.76 per pound in the third quarter of 2019 versus an average of $6.05 in the first half of 2019.

It said it expected further cost reductions for the fourth quarter.

Sales in the quarter fell 6% to 895 million euros ($995 million) from 951 million euros a year earlier, as magnanese prices fell and on the impact of bringing quality processes into conformity at Aubert & Duval.

Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Alexandra Hudson