Nickel Mines (ASX:NIC) has successfully boosted its stake in the Ranger nickel project in Indonesia from 17 percent to a whopping majority share at 60 percent.
In an announcement released Thursday (August 15), Nickel Mines referred to the boost as the “second acquisition” of Ranger. According to the company, it exercised its option to increase its stake in the project within 60 days of first nickel pig iron (NPI) production.
In early June, the company marked first NPI production at Ranger off its to-do list in a maiden production run of one of the project’s two rotary kilns.
The company has the option to earn up to an 80 percent interest in Ranger through a collaboration agreement with operating partner Shanghai Decent Investment. In late May, Nickel Mines signed a binding term sheet with Shanghai for US$80 million in funding to help hit that 60 percent shareholder status.
The boosted stake in Ranger ran up a US$121.4 million price tag, which was paid through Shanghai’s funding, the issue of US$40 million in company shares and a cash payment of US$1.4 million.
“With the company now having a 60 percent ownership interest in both the Hengjaya nickel and Ranger nickel projects we are now firmly on track to reporting in excess of 20,000 tonnes per annum of attributable nickel metal production and establishing Nickel Mines as a globally significant nickel producer,” Nickel Mines Managing Director Justin Werner said in a statement.
Nickel Mines has been working to grow its presence in the nickel market by increasing its interest in partly owned assets over the last year. In September 2018, the company paid US$70 million to boost its stake in an Indonesian nickel pig iron plant by 35 percent, pushing its ownership to 60 percent.
Furthermore, the company’s partnership with Shanghai stands to be a fruitful collaboration. Shanghai falls under the umbrella of China’s Tsingshan group, the world’s largest stainless steel producer.
The company’s Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) operation is the world’s largest vertically integrated stainless steel facility. As a cherry on top of the nickel cake, the aforementioned NPI plant that Nickel Mines increased its stake in is located within the IMIP operation.
With ramp-up plans currently in motion, IMIP has been noted by experts as an asset to watch in light of a blossoming electric vehicle (EV) battery market.
“Many companies are investing in operations to produce high-purity nickel specifically for the EV battery market. Examples include … Tsingshan’s plans to begin production of 50,000 tonnes (per) year of battery grade nickel at its IMIP operation in Indonesia by end-2019,” Capital Economics Assistant Commodities Economist Kieran Clancy wrote in a note.
As of August 14, nickel prices had climbed to US$16,045 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange.
In Australia, Nickel Mines’ stock price fell 2.61 percent on Thursday (August 15) to end the day of trading at AU$0.56.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.