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KORES to launch nickel production at Madagascar mine

State-run Korea Resources Corp. said Thursday that it would start production at a nickel mine in Madagascar this year, which is expected to push the country’s self-sufficiency rate for the mineral to over 60 percent.

KORES and consortium partners including Sumitomo Corp. and Sherritt International Corp. held a ceremony Wednesday marking the completion of the Ambatovy mine facilities.

Since signing the deal for the Ambatovy nickel mine in September 2007, the consortium has invested $5.3 billion to build a nickel smelting plant and cogeneration plant there, according to KORES. A Korean group led by KORES holds a 27.5 percent stake in the deal.

“The completion of the project at Ambatovy has forged a base for Korea to secure a stable supply of nickel,” KORES CEO Kim Shin-jong said.

“We plan to provide most of our share of 19,000 tons primarily to Korean firms including carmakers through the domestic consortium.”

The nickel project is one of the three largest of this kind in the world and is the first time for KORES to combine resource development and infrastructure construction, KORES officials said.

The 125 million ton-mine which will begin pilot production this year will produce 60,000 tons of nickel and 5,600 tons of cobalt annually starting 2013, according to the state-run developer.

The Korean group in the project including Daewoo International Corp. and Samsung Construction & Trading will provide 30,000 tons of nickel a year to the Korean market over the next 15 years, KORES said. The amount accounts for 25 percent of the nation’s annual nickel consumption.

The project will boost the country’s self-reliance rate of the mineral that is vital to the nation’s major industries, from current 36.8 percent to 61.8 percent, KORES said.

Meanwhile, KORES officials expected that the African project can be a model for future projects in the region as it was a successful collaboration among local participants.

The Ex-Im Bank of Korea, KORES and Korean builders each were responsible for the project’s financing, mineral development and plant construction, respectively.

By Koh Young-aah (youngaah@heraldcorp.com)
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