New Caledonia smelter in trouble

New Caledonia’s Koniambo nickel company says it has serious problems with its furnaces and will therefore produce far less metal this year than scheduled.

The seven-billion US dollar plant was shut for weeks after Christmas after about 500 tonnes of liquid nickel was spilled from one of the furnaces, incurring the company millions of US dollars of damage.

The company now says a design flaw will make it necessary to replace the other furnace, which will almost halve this year’s planned nickel production of 27,000 tonnes.

Its manager has told local media that the setback will force Koniambo to reduce its expenses, which may lead to job cuts.

The plant, which was officially opened by the French president Francois Hollande in November, is widely seen as the key industrial site to advance the economy of the mainly Kanak northern province.

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