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First Quantum Minerals Halts Mining Operations in Australia

In another blow to the company, First Quantum Minerals has announced the temporary suspension of mining activities at its Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation (RNO) in Western Australia. The Canadian mining company disclosed that the decision is part of a strategic three-year plan aimed at halting mining at the site while continuing to produce nickel concentrate from existing stockpiles.

The company’s Australian unit emphasized that the suspension is a direct consequence of the substantial downturn in nickel prices experienced throughout 2023, coupled with the heightened operating costs in Western Australia. In a statement released on Monday, the company outlined its commitment to enhancing the financial viability of RNO at the current nickel prices.

“The decision results from the significant downturn in the nickel price experienced during 2023, combined with currently higher operating costs in Western Australia, and a requirement to improve the financial viability of RNO at current nickel prices,” the company stated.

Under the new operating model, the Ravensthorpe facility will maintain production and export activities utilizing existing stockpiles. This strategic move allows First Quantum Minerals to navigate the challenging market conditions while positioning itself to resume mining operations when nickel prices improve, the company postulated.

The move comes after a series of reports has surfaced about potential buyers for First Quantum’s assets, including Grupo Mexico reportedly eyeing to acquire Las Cruces mine in southern Spain.

The nickel market witnessed a sharp decline of 45% last year, primarily attributed to an influx of low-cost supply from Indonesia. The adoption of new techniques in Indonesia to produce battery-grade material has posed a significant threat to the nickel industry, causing a ripple effect across battery metals. Consequently, mining companies globally have been compelled to halt projects, abandon deals, and seek financial stability.

First Quantum Minerals is also contending with additional challenges, including pressure to reduce costs following directives from the government of Panama to permanently close its flagship copper mine, Cobre Panama. This mine accounted for 78% of the company’s operating profit in the first nine months of the previous year. To address the financial uncertainty arising from Panama’s directives, the company initiated the sale process of a copper mine in Spain in December.

As a result of the suspension of mining activities at RNO, the direct workforce at the facility is expected to be reduced by approximately 30%. The company clarified that contractors affected by the decision will be redeployed by their respective employers.

Information for this story was found via Bloomberg and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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