The large group specializing in raw materials Glencore announced, Wednesday September 27, its withdrawal at the end of February 2024 from the ferronickel production plant, Koniambo Nickel SAS (KNS), “if no new financing solution was identified”. A 49% shareholder in KNS, the Glencore group, based in Switzerland, is the sole financier.
The plant was commissioned in 2014 and currently employs 1,350 people. A flagship project in the rebalancing between the North Caledonian provinces – where it is located – and the South, KNS has never been profitable and has an abysmal debt. The site is today one of three metallurgical companies in New Caledonia in financial difficulty.
Nickel, long the economic lifeblood of the island, is out of breath today. While the prices of strategic raw materials are increasing sharply on world markets, the three Caledonian nickel refining plants are weighed down and their survival is threatened due to their lack of competitiveness in production costs, according to an official report published in August 2023.
“Although significant progress has been made in productivity, performance and reliability, KNS continues to struggle financially and incur significant losses, largely due to factors beyond its control related to cost structure and market conditions »underlined Glencore in a press release published on Wednesday.
The group therefore “informed the KNS Board of Directors that it would only fund KNS operations until February 29, 2024”. Until then, Glencore “will work with KNS and relevant stakeholders to explore solutions for continued losses” From the factory, “including the search for an alternative source of financing”.
Fifth world producer of nickel
New Caledonia is the fifth largest producer of nickel in the world, which represents 90% of the territory’s exports and 10% of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Kanak mining nationalism is inseparable from the political struggle for independence. The Matignon agreements, in 1988, and Nouméa, in 1998, were the founders of a policy of economic rebalancing between the provinces of the South, predominantly loyalist, and the North, predominantly independent, by providing the latter with a factory of ferronickel production, Koniambo Nickel SAS (KNS).
The World with AFP