12 Apr 2013

New Caledonia's Koniambo plant starts operations

7:13 am on 12 April 2013

New Caledonia's huge Koniambo nickel plant has been fired up to produce its first metal.

Work on the five-billion US dollar plant began six years ago as part of a long-standing French-backed plan to help develop the economy of New Caledonia's north.

51 percent of the plant is owned by SMSP, which is the nickel mining arm of the northern provincial government, with the rest being held by Swiss-based miner Xstrata.

Noumea media report that last night a smelter in Vavouto was heated up to 1,000 degrees to transform 230 tonnes of ore into a liquid.

It is hoped the first official production of nickel can be made next week.

New Caledonia has vast nickel ore reserves and is already a key producer with its SLN plant in Noumea.