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Mitsubishi, partners putting up nickel mining, smelting business in Indonesia

Publication Date : 20-06-2014


Japanese integrated business enterprise Mitsubishi Corporation, popular in the country for its automotive products, expects to start its nickel mining and smelting projects in Weda Bay, Halmahera in Indonesia by the end of the year through joint venture PT Weda Bay Nickel (WBN).

Mitsubishi regional coordinator and advisor for the Indonesian market Masataka Komiya said on Wednesday that WBN would invest over US$5 billion in the nickel mining and smelting project.

“We have been partnering with PT Aneka Tambang [Antam] and a French company [through WBN] to conduct the feasibility study over the last four years. We are now waiting for the project’s prototype and economic review,” he told reporters after a closed meeting with Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi and Coordinating Economic Minister Chairul Tanjung.

WBN is a joint venture company, which is 90 per cent owned by Singapore-based Strand Minerals Pte. Ltd. and 10 per cent owned by state-owned diversified miner Antam, according to information posted on its website.

The website also mentions that 66.6 per cent of Strand Minerals’ stake is owned by France-based Eramet Group, while the remaining 30 per cent and 3.4 perc ent is owned by Japanese firms Mitsubishi and Pacific Metal Co. Ltd. (Pamco), respectively.

Lutfi said WBN had planned to start the mining operation and building the smelter by the end of this year once everything had been prepared.

“Komiya met with the coordinating economic minister to report that final preparations were being made and it asked for support from the minister so that it could start operations without delay,” he said.

Lutfi said that WBN would build a nickel smelter that would process nickel to meet a purity level of 97 per cent, a product similar to aluminum ingot.

The country’s current demand for aluminum ingots is estimated to reach 600,000 tonnes each year, but state-owned aluminum maker PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum),

which is currently the only aluminum smelter in the country, can supply only less than half of the figure, leaving the majority for

Komiya said WBN would market its processed nickel products for both the Indonesian market and international market, mainly Asian countries.

Aside from aiming to accelerate the operation of the Weda Bay project, Komiya said, Mitsubishi had also planned to build an automotive factory in Indonesia this year.

“Thailand has become the fastest-growing car industry in Southeast Asia, but its current [political] situation is not good. In terms of population, the Indonesian market is bigger in many ways. So, we have to follow that logic,” he said, adding that a detailed study on the plan was still underway.

Komiya hinted, however, that the factory would probably be mainly dedicated to producing multipurpose vehicles (MPVs), the favored car type in the country.

The Association of Indonesian Automotive Manufacturers (Gaikindo) recorded that total sales of the 4x2 car type (comprising MPVs and a few sport utility vehicles [SUVs]) accounted for 787,712 units or 64 per cent of the total auto sales last year.


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