When it was discovered in the mid-1990s, Weda Bay in Indonesia proved to be the world's largest untapped nickel deposit. It is now operated in partnership with the Chinese company Tsingshan, the world's leading producer of stainless steel.
- 9.3 Mt of nickel content
- Over 50 years of deposits
- 3.4 wet megatons of nickel ore produced in 2020
- 23.5 kt of low grade nickel ferroalloy produced in 2020
- 4,000 mine personnel
A critical partnership
In 2017, Tsingshan signed an agreement with Eramet, with each group taking on a different role: Tsingshan took over construction and operation of the factories, as well as the infrastructure required for production. In addition to the deposit, which it acquired in 2006, Eramet brought its invaluable mining expertise, in a region that is particularly sensitive to erosion. In the wake of Tsingshan's investment, Eramet now owns 43% of the company that operates Weda Bay, with the remaining 57% held by Tsingshan.
On the ground, the pyrometallurgical process developed for this project, which employs electric furnaces, is one of the most competitive in the world. Using the ore extracted from Weda Bay, the process allows factories to produce low-grade ferronickel, which is in high demand from the world's major stainless steel customers.
A successful launch
The start-up has been a success, with a rapid ramp-up in mining operations and production of low-grade nickel ferroalloys.
The mine commenced operations in late 2019 and produced 3.4 wet megatons of nickel ore in 2020. The first metal pour at the joint venture's nickel ferroalloy production plant took place at the end of April 2020, ahead of the original schedule, and only twenty months after construction of the plant began. The plant reached its nominal capacity (35 kt-Ni per year) in August of the same year, ahead of schedule, and produced 23.5 kt-Ni overall.
Production at the mine will reach approximately 7 wet megatons per year in 2021, a quantity that has enabled the mine both to supply the plant operated by the joint venture and to sell nearly 4.2 wet megatons of ore to other Indonesian producers located in the vicinity of the site.
In addition, as part of its development strategy focused on metals destined for use in the energy transition, Eramet signed an agreement with BASF in December 2020 to jointly explore the development of a hydro-metallurgical project for refining nickel/cobalt aimed at the lithium-ion battery market for electric vehicles. The project is aiming to start operations in the mid-2020s, and the idea is to process Weda Bay's ore locally. The feasibility study began in early 2021.