When it was discovered in the mid-1990s, Weda Bay in Indonesia proved to be the world's largest untapped nickel deposit. The site 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
- 14.6 wet megatons of nickel ore produced in 2021
- 39 kt of low grade nickel ferroalloy produced in 2021
- 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 plant and its operation, as well as the infrastructure required for production. With its mining expertise, Eramet carried out all the work to develop the mine which the Group operates via its subcontractors. Eramet 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 ferronickel, which meets a new market, along with traditional ones.
A successful launch
The start-up of the industrial activity has been a success, with a rapid ramp-up in mining operations and production of 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 15 wet megatons 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.
Eramet also plans to diversify the value of the Weda Bay Nickel deposit. In this respect, the Group signed an agreement with BASF in December 2020 to jointly explore the development of a hydro-metallurgical project for refining nickel/cobalt. The aim of this project is to produce nickel and cobalt salts, metals that are essential for the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries. It would include a high pressure acid leaching unit (HPAL) and a base metal refinery (BMR). The feasibility study began in early 2021 and the project is targeting a start-up of the facilities in the mid-2020s. As a responsible miner, Eramet is committed to operating its mines in accordance with internationally recognized societal and environmental standards. The Group has therefore chosen not to turn to the Deep Sea Tailing Placement method, which consists of dumping mine tailings in the open sea.
The development of this deposit is an opportunity for Eramet to broaden its product portfolio towards critical metals for the energy transition, a development that is one of the key pillars of the Group's strategy.
The remarkable success story of Weda Bay Nickel
The Weda Bay Nickel project began when Eramet obtained and held onto its license to operate on Halmahera Island, Indonesia. See the story behind this ambitious undertaking.
Meeting the expectations of the communities
As part of an active dialogue with local populations and authorities, Weda Bay Nickel's contributory CSR program is implemented by IWIP, the company that brings together all the partners of the Weda Bay industrial park.
Many initiatives relating to economic development, education, health or culture have been carried out by Weda Bay Nickel, including:
- The improvement of the road network and the creation of new access roads for villages, with a program to support economic diversification,
- Supporting communities in the rehabilitation of mangroves and coral reefs,
- Supporting education through several programs including the distribution of scholarships to local students,
- Improving the region's health infrastructure, and providing access to a clinic with 24-hour emergency service for Weda Bay Nickel employees.