London — Vale produced 58,600 mt of finished nickel in the first quarter of 2018, down 17.9% from Q1 2017, the Brazilian miner said Monday.
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The drop mainly reflected "Vale's rigorous capital allocation process based on returns, that resulted in decreased Voisey's Bay production output to extend its mine life while the Voisey's Bay Mine Extension project is reassessed, as well as, Vale's decision to adjust its nickel supply by placing non-competitive mines, such as Stobie in Sudbury and Birchtree in Manitoba, on care and maintenance," the company said in a statement.
Nickel output was also affected by lower production of finished nickel from Indonesian operations as a result of a planned maintenance in the Matsusaka refinery in Japan; unscheduled maintenance works at Sudbury's Coleman mine; and timing issues with finished production from New Caledonian source material being shipped and consumed at downstream refineries, it said.
New Caledonian production was expected to recover over coming quarters, "given that the production rate at the site is going well," Vale said, adding its total nickel production was expected to increase to about 65,000 mt in Q2.
Production at the Long Harbour processing plant in Canada reached a quarterly record of 8,600 mt in Q1, 2.3% higher than Q4 2017 and 110% higher than in Q1 2017.
The nickel concentrate being produced at Voisey's Bay is processed solely at Long Harbour, and the refinery "continues its successful ramp-up with trials of plating-grade nickel for customers," the company said.
Sales volumes of nickel were 57,900 mt in Q1, down from 72,100 mt in Q1 last year, reflecting lower production volumes as well as a build-up of 700 mt in finished inventories to replenish inventory levels.