Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC), the Francistown based nickel producer, has seen its production slump in the first quarter of the year according to latest data released by its parent company– Norilsk Nickel.?Norilsk’s preliminary consolidated production results for Q1 2014 showed that TNMC produced 1.7 thousand tonnes of nickel in concentrate, down 20.9 percent year-on-year.
“The decrease was attributed to lower metal grades in the mined ore,” the Russian company said.
An agreement signed in August 2013 stipulates that 50 percent of nickel semis produced from Tati Nickel’s concentrate was shipped to Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta and the other 50 percent to GlencoreXtrata, while previously all concentrate was sold to third parties. Norilsk Nickel owns 85 percent of TNMC while the Botswana government owns 15 percent.
Norilsk also reported that the production of nickel in concentrate by Nkomati (reported on a 50 percent basis) in Q1 2014 was?3.1 thousand tonnes, up 15.3 percent y-o-y. The growth in nickel production for the period was attributed to increase of ore output, increases of nickel content in ore and successful implementation of optimization programs at enrichment facilities.
The news come at a time when there are uncertainties on the future of the mine with about 1200 jobs at stake following Norilsk’s announcement that it wants to sell assets in Africa. Government has been urged to buyout the Russian company as it did with BCL–where continuous bail-outs led to Botswana government having a 93.6 percent stake on the copper/nickel miner while the remaining 6.4 percent is held by Norilsk Nickel.?There are also uncertainties on Norilsk’s relationship with the West as the United States and European superpowers are imposing sanctions on Moscow. Norilsk has clients in the developed world–but is answering these threats by increasing exports to China.
The MMC Norilsk Nickel steering committee has approved Tati Nickel’s action plan and its implementation is aimed at improving performance at current price levels. The new plan stipulates that Tati Nickel must reduce the cost of all operations, including those carried out by contractors, by 10 percent and improve sales and logistics conditions. Tati Nickel will continue exploration drilling at its Phoenix deposit and geological exploration of the Selkirk deposit. The cost efficiency of the Selkirk deposit development is under appraisal.