Xstrata starts nickel mining in New Caledonia – by Esmarie Swanepoel (MiningWeekly.com – April 12, 2013)

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Swiss-listed Xstrata’s nickel division has started production at its Koniambo project, in New Caledonia.

The diversified miner said on Friday that the start of production marked a key milestone for the $5-billion greenfield project, which has been under construction for the past six years and has been a flagship component of Xstrata’s organic growth programme.

“We are on track to deliver the full production rate of 60 000 t/y by the end of 2014 as scheduled, while maintaining excellence in terms of environmental and safety performance at this world-class industrial complex,” said Xstrata Nickel CEO Ian Pearce.

“All components of the mining and smelting process have now been successfully tested, leading to production of metal from Line 1. The production of first nickel metal at Koniambo after six years of complex design and construction is a huge achievement and a source of great pride for all of our employees,” he added.

At the height of its construction, more than 6 000 people were employed in building the project and its associated infrastructure.

First metal production signaled the start of Koniambo as a multi-decade, tier-one asset with long-term cash costs at the bottom of the second quartile, said Pearc.

At peak production, the mine will further cement New Caledonia’s position as one of the most important nickel producers in the world and provide steady employment for approximately 800 workers, with a focus on local employment, and indirect employment for thousands of others.

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