Norilsk May Boost Nkomati Nickel Ouput, Add Refinery

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel (GMKN), which offered $6.4 billion for LionOre Mining International Ltd. (LIM), may quadruple nickel production at its Nkomati mine in South Africa and build a refinery there.

Production at the mine, owned jointly with African Rainbow Minerals Ltd., may rise to 22,000 tons a year, Gerhard Potgieter, Norilsk's Africa manager, told reporters in Johannesburg today. A study into the South African refinery, similar to a $482 million plant already being built in neighboring Botswana, will start next year, Potgieter said.

Norilsk said Aug. 14 that it secured 97.7 percent of LionOre in Russia's largest cross-border takeover, after trumping a rival bid from Zug, Switzerland-based Xstrata Plc. The transaction enables Russia's biggest miner to expand into South Africa and Botswana, and adds to the company's Australian operations.

Norilsk, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, will produce 295,000 to 300,000 metric tons of nickel this year, after incorporating LionOre's production, the company said July 31. It previously forecast output of 270,000 to 275,000 tons.

``The fact that we're now an operator and present in South Africa certainly increases the relative attractiveness of projects or acquisitions,'' Ralph Tavakolian Morgan, Norilsk's deputy chief executive officer, said in an interview. He declined to comment on possible acquisitions.

Norilsk will ``encourage'' LionOre to accelerate expansion plans that already come to 4.4 billion rand ($594 million) in southern Africa, Morgan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carli Lourens in Johannesburg clourens@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Justin Carrigan at jcarrigan@bloomberg.net

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