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Ambatovy Nickel Mine to Begin in March, Sumitomo Says

Sumitomo Corp., Japan’s third-largest trading house by assets, said the Ambatovy nickel project in Madagascar will start initial production in March.

The project will begin production next month and will have operation rates above 70 percent by the end of this year, Kuniharu Nakamura, managing executive officer, told reporters at a conference today. The mine will produce 60,000 metric tons a year from 2013, he said.

Nickel, used to strengthen stainless steel in everything from kitchen sinks to aircraft-fuel tanks, has climbed 6.6 percent this year after losing 24 percent in 2011 on concern that Europe’s debt crisis may curb global growth and demand in China may slow.

Sumitomo has a 27.5 percent stake in the project, while Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. owns 40 percent and a South Korean group led by Korea Resources Corp., a state-run mineral explorer, has 27.5 percent.

Nickel for three-month delivery fell 0.6 percent to $19,950 a ton at 5:19 p.m. in Tokyo on the London Metal Exchange.

Separately, Sumitomo plans to increase its assets of resources and energy rights, such as copper, zinc, coal, iron ore, oil and gas to 1 trillion yen ($12.7 billion) in two to three years from current 700 billion yen, Nakamura said.

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