RAMU NiCo’s first load for shipment yesterday came with the tag “most persevering” from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, underscoring the completion of construction and the mine’s opening.
The US$1.5 billion nickel cobalt mine featured a small maiden load at Basamuk and O’Neill flew in to mark the occasion, even though he was a little late.
O’Neill commended the Chinese government for its perseverance and the hard work that took place during the deep sea tailings placement saga through the courts.
He paid attribute to Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare for bringing the project when he was the prime minister.
The opening took place at about lunchtime due to the late arrival of the prime minister and was celebrated with electronically-powered firecrackers and ribbon-cutting to declare the Basamuk refinery open.
Zhang Zhao Xiang, vice-president for the MCC Group, the parent company, said despite the difficulties and challenges, it was only through the concerted efforts of the financiers, Exim Bank of China, and government stakeholders that the project was successful.
Mining Minister Byron Chan said while many other nickel projects with land-based tailings discontinued, Ramu NiCo kept pushing on.
“It is here to stay,” he said.
Other issues highlighted at the opening, but yet to be completed, are the land titles hearing, the memorandum of agreement review including landowner grievances and environmental monitoring.
After the ribbon was cut, signifying the opening, seven big trucks loaded with the finished product taxied down to the wharf.
Many projects and initiatives undertaken by Ramu NiCo were spelt out by an emotional Madam Luo, the president of the project.
One of the major donations was K2 million to provincial works to upgrade the Brahman to Bundi station road.
The Basamuk process plant developers, Highlands Pacific, said: “This is a major milestone for the project and is the first of many shipments.”
Highlands Pacific managing director John Gooding said: “This maiden shipment from commissioning is only a relatively small amount.
“However, as the project builds to full capacity, shipment will increase.”
The shipment consisted of 576 tonnes of mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide intermediate product, containing some 217 tonnes of nickel and 19 tonnes of cobalt.
The product is being exported to a Chinese customer.
The Ramu project contains an estimated resource of 143 million tonnes at 1.01% nickel and 0.1% cobalt.
Year-to-date, some 9,465 tonnes of mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide intermediate product had been produced, containing around 3,536 tonnes of nickel and 322 tonnes of cobalt.