Australia’s Pacific Nickel Mines starts operations at Solomon Islands nickel project

Pacific Nickel Mines, an Australian mining company, has embarked on nickel ore mining operations at its Kolosori project situated on Isabel Island within the Solomon Islands. The mining operation focuses on saprolite nickel ore and adopts a shallow open-pit approach. Anticipated production levels are impressive, with the capacity to yield up to 1.5 million wet metric tonnes (wmt) of nickel ore annually, contingent upon port throughput. Pacific Nickel has estimated the total operating costs to hover around $31 per wmt.

One of the significant aspects of this endeavor is a six-year offtake agreement Pacific Nickel signed with Glencore, a Switzerland-based mining and trading entity. The agreement encompasses the entire production output of the mine over the six-year duration, solidifying a strategic partnership.

This offtake agreement operates on a take-or-pay basis, implicating penalties for Glencore if it fails to meet its delivery obligations. The prices for the ore received by Pacific Nickel will be linked to specified 1.5% direct shipping nickel ore benchmarks, subject to adjustments based on ore quality and potential penalty payments. However, the precise details and specifications of these benchmarks have not been disclosed.

The Kolosori project is backed by a $22 million loan agreement inked in 2022 between Pacific Nickel Mines and Glencore, further fortifying the financial foundation of the mining venture. This loan agreement involves a three-year repayment obligation that Pacific Nickel Mines will initiate after the first shipment.

Importantly, the repayment schedule exempts wet season months from any scheduled repayments, providing flexibility and accounting for operational dynamics. Pacific Nickel Mines holds a controlling 80% stake in the Kolosori project, while the remaining 20% ownership is attributed to local associated landowners.

In March, the company received a crucial export permit from the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Mines, Energy, and Rural Electrification, valid for three years with an option for renewal. This permit signifies a crucial regulatory milestone facilitating the shipment and trade of nickel ore from the project.

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