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Vale to lift iron ore pellet output, cut nickel production in 2018

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Vale to lift iron ore pellet output, cut nickel production in 2018

Vale SA will lift its iron ore pellet output but reduce its nickel production next year, according to separate same-day reports on Dec. 6.

Metal Bulletin, citing executive director ferrous minerals and coal Peter Poppinga, reported that the company will boost iron ore pellet production by 10% to around 55 million tonnes in 2018, higher from 50 million tonnes this year, on the back of strong market demand.

Iron ore production forecasts, however, remain steady at 390 million tonnes for 2018, and then rising to 400 million tonnes in 2019.

Vale, meanwhile, reduced its nickel production forecast by 15% to 263,000 tonnes in 2018, Reuters reported, citing Jennifer Maki, executive director of Vale's base metals unit, at an annual investor presentation.

Maki said the miner wants to "preserve its nickel optionality" ahead of an anticipated boom in electric vehicles in the next decade.

The company expects to make a decision by the end of 2018 on whether to inject a needed US$500 million into its New Caledonia operation over the next four years. Vale is still seeking a partner for its struggling nickel operation, and has held talks with several groups for a stake sale.

The mining giant is also targeting to slash its debt to US$10 billion from US$21 billion.

Vale expects to offload up to US$1.5 billion worth of noncore assets by 2020, including stake sales in Brazilian bauxite producer Mineração Rio do Norte, the Eagle Downs coal project in Queensland, and CA Steel Industries Inc.

CEO Fabio Schvartsman said the miner is generating cash at a fast enough pace to make asset sales less urgent. The executive added that the company was done with major divestments.

Schvartsman recently said that the company plans to use cash flow this year to cut its debt and pay dividends.