MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Vale's New Caledonia nickel plant suspended after another spill

Published by MAC on 2014-05-10
Source: Reuters, Radio New Zealand

See previous article on MAC: Will Vale be forced to abort Apolo mission?

New Caledonia takes legal action over Vale nickel spill


9 May 2014

Sydney - New Caledonia's southern provincial government said on Friday it was starting legal proceedings against Vale over environmental damaged caused by an effluent spill at the miner's nickel operations.

Vale said in an earlier statement that the spill contained some acid, but that subsequent test results carried out on a nearby river and the sea showed conditions appeared to have returned to normal.

The mining giant said it had suspended 80 percent of its nickel production in New Caledonia and planned a complete shutdown later on Friday, helping to send nickel prices up nearly 6 percent. A spokesman for Vale could not immediately be reached for further comment.

The southern province of New Caledonia was starting legal proceedings under its environmental code after the spill had killed about 1,000 fish, and swimming and fishing had been suspended in the area, it said in a statement.

The local government did not say when it might allow Vale to resume operations, but said pollution had been contained to a river.

The stoppage had affected 3,500 workers, Vale said, of which 1,300 are employees and the rest subcontractors.

News of the shutdown added more heat to London nickel prices which have soared by more than 47 percent this year on supply concerns after Indonesia banned ore exports in January. Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange (CMNI3) surged 5.7 percent to a 26-month peak of $20,500 a tonne.

Nickel buyers in China and Japan are scrambling to secure supplies as soaring prices and a fear of shortages boosts demand for both refined metal and long-term ore contracts. (Reporting by Cecile Lefort and Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Ed Davies)

Vale suspends New Caledonia nickel ops due to spill


8 May 2014

Sydney - Vale has suspended production at its Goro nickel processing plant and mine in New Caledonia due to an effluent spill, and is waiting to hear from the local government about when it can resume operations, it said on Thursday.

Vale said in a statement that it was working on limiting the damage caused by the spill, and that conditions in the local river had returned to normal Thursday morning.

The president of New Caledonia's Southern Province, Cynthia Ligeard, ordered an immediate halt to operations due to an effluent spill containing some acid, according to an earlier news report by Radio New Zealand International. Vale didn't say in its latest statement what the spill contained.

Vale, the world's second biggest nickel producer, said in November that it expected Goro to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel in 2014. On May 1 its chief executive said that its nickel mine in New Caledonia was performing well and meeting expectations.

While analysts said the shutdown could prove short-lived, the news fed already bullish sentiment in nickel.

Nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME), already up by more than a third this year due to supply constraints in Indonesia and the possibility of sanctions on Russian metal, hit the highest in more than two years on Thursday.

The government of New Caledonia was not immediately available for comment. Thursday is a public holiday in New Caledonia. (Reporting by Melanie Burton and Cecile Lefort; Editing by Richard Pullin and Michael Urquhart)

New Caledonia nickel plant suspended

Radio New Zealand

8 May 2014

The president of New Caledonia's Southern Province Cynthia Ligeard has ordered immediate suspension of operations at the Vale nickel processing plant at Goro after an estimated 100,000 litres of effluent ended up in a creek.

The spill contained some acid but it is not immediately clear how strong the concentration was.

The provincial government has sent a joint mission with the environmental authority to the six-billion US dollar plant for an evaluation of the spill.

It's the fifth such spill in five years at the Goro plant.

Vale has confirmed that there's been an incident but has given no details yet.

The French High Commissioner, the President of the territorial government of New Caledonia, as well as the mayors of the municipalities of Mont-Dore and Yate have been advised of the spill.

The Southern Province president has activated a crisis unit to evaluate the impact of this industrial accident and to put in place urgent measures to limit its effect.

In February, five New Caledonian environmental groups won nearly half a million US dollars in compensation from the Vale nickel company over a major acid spill at its plant five years ago.

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