One of the largest nickel deposits in the world
The Weda Bay Nickel (WBN) project is an industrial and mining project under development, aiming to recover one of the largest nickel deposits in the world, located on the island of Halmahera in Indonesia. WBN has the potential to be a strategic, transformative project for the ERAMET group. ERAMET and its partners judge that the conditions for them to consider a final investment decision are not as yet fulfilled, particularly in terms of financing and the definition of the legal and tax framework.
The industrial challenges
Starting up a new sustainable operation
The deposits located on the island of Halmahera are part of the largest undeveloped deposits of lateritic nickel in the world. Studies conducted since the late 1990s have demonstrated that the WBN deposit, with a nickel content of more than 7 million tons, can satisfy extraction requirements for more than 50 years. After an initial extraction phase totalling 35,000 tons of nickel and 1,300 tons of cobalt, the eventual aim is to increase production to 65,000 tons of nickel and 4,000 tons of cobalt, with approximately 2,400 people working on site.
ERAMET partnered with Mitsubishi Corporation in 2009, the first Japanese investor in Indonesia, and, in 2011, with Pacific Metals Co. Ltd., the first Japanese producer of ferronickel, to develop the project. Following its decision to reconsider its mining assets portfolio, Mitsubishi Corporation exercised a put option to ERAMET, on 21 April 2016, in the stake it held with Pacific Metals Co. Ltd. PT (Persero) Aneka Tambang Tbk (PT Antam), an Indonesian state-owned mining operator, is still a partner of this project.
WBN project has also developed partnerships with the government of Indonesia, the local government of the province of North Maluku, the governments of the districts of East Halmahera and Central Halmahera, and, of course, the communities of the island of Halmahera. In 2011, WBN was adopted as one of 17 strategic projects supporting the Indonesian president's master plan promoting the acceleration and expansion of Indonesian economic development.
Implementing a new hydrometallurgical process at atmospheric pressure
The ERAMET group developed a hydrometallurgical process based on sulphur leaching at atmospheric pressure specifically to beneficiate the WBN deposit. This process gives the best guarantees of technological and environmental risk control, with effluents that meet international standards and non-hazardous residues. In addition, its CO² emissions are low as it does not depend heavily on fossil fuels.
This integrated process may enable the refinement of nickel and cobalt on site, and the creation of all of the locally added value in Indonesia, in accordance with the objectives of the Indonesian authorities.
The social and environmental challenges
Environmental and social action
WBN project strives to respectthe highest international standards in terms of the prevention, reduction and compensation for, the environmental, social or health impacts of the project. The WBN project is being developed in accordance with the "Equator Principles" and the performance criteria of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Indonesian law and best mining and industrial practices developed within the ERAMET group.
The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank is already supporting the project in its initial phase of construction studies. This guarantee was granted following impact studies and in-depth audits, conducted in accordance with the principles of the World Bank, including the International Finance Corporation’s performance criteria.
Supporting local community development
WBN project supports a local development program in the 21 villages near the project, based on education, health, development of local economic activities and environmental and cultural initiatives, as well as the development of local infrastructures.
Moreover, in January 2010, ERAMET has created the Saloi foundation, which promotes partnerships with non-governmental organizations or public or private entities involved in the development of the region.
Protecting the existing biodiversity
The characterization studies of the initial condition conducted as part of this project have improved knowledge of the biodiversity and ecology of the island, with respect to habitats and the flora and fauna.
The project recognises Halmahera’s rich biodiversity and has pledged to implement a strategy of avoiding, reducing and offsetting its impacts with the goal of a net gain in biodiversity. It engages recognized national and international specialists to conduct studies and develop management plans in the region. The environmental teams have worked in close collaboration with the engineering teams on the design, the selection of the sites and the minimization of the project footprint on the site.
ERAMET's Weda Bay Nickel project has joined the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP). This program, involving 80 companies, financial institutions, governments and non-governmental organizations, aims to promote the exchange of experiences and expertise with regard to biodiversity.