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Metals - Ambatovy Joint Venture

The Ambatovy Joint Venture is a vertically-integrated nickel and cobalt mining, processing, refining and marketing joint venture between subsidiaries of Sherritt (40% ownership), Sumitomo (27.5%), Korea Resources (27.5%), and SNC-Lavalin (5%). Sherritt is the operator of the facilities. Located in Madagascar, Ambatovy is the largest finished nickel and finished cobalt operation from lateritic ore in the world.

Ambatovy has an annual design capacity of 60,000 tonnes of nickel and 5,600 tonnes of cobalt. The mine life is currently projected to be 29 years. Commissioning and start-up of the plant facilities were completed in 2012. In January 2014, Ambatovy reached commercial production. For the full year 2014 Ambatovy produced 14,821 tonnes (40% basis) of finished nickel.

Ambatovy Overview

The Ambatovy mine area is located 80 kilometres east of Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar) near the town of Moramanga. It is within a few kilometres of the main road and rail system connecting Antananarivo and the main port city of Toamasina on the east coast. The Joint Venture operates an open-pit mining operation and an ore preparation plant at the mine site. The slurried laterite ore is delivered via pipeline to a process plant and refinery located directly south of the Port of Toamasina.

For more information please visit the Ambatovy site at www.ambatovy.com .

  1. In the first step of the process ore is mined in an open pit method with excavators and trucks. The ore is then prepared into a slurry with water and screened and settled in a thickener. This slurry is fed into an autoclave (a pressure vessel) where it is reacted with sulphuric acid to leach nickel and cobalt into a solution.
  2. The leach discharge slurry is processed through a countercurrent decantation (CCD) wash circuit which separates the nickel and cobalt solution from the residue (mostly iron oxide).
  3. To neutralize the sulphuric acid in the nickel and cobalt solution, limestone is added.
  4. The tailings from the process need to be neutralized as well. Limestone and lime are reacted with the residues from the CCD and acid neutralization circuits to remove metals such as iron and aluminum from the solution.
  5. To recover nickel and cobalt from the solution, precipitation is used, where hydrogen sulphide gas is added at an elevated temperature and pressure to produce concentrated mixed sulphides. At the Moa Joint Venture, these mixed sulphides are then shipped from the operations at Moa, Cuba to Fort Saskatchewan, Canada for final processing.
  6. The next step of the process has the mixed sulphides releached to produce a high-strength nickel-cobalt solution. At Fort Saskatchewan, ammonia is used as the leaching agent. The refinery in Madagascar will use an acid solution. Unleached materials are then separated from the metal-rich solution.
  7. In the final stages of the process cobalt is separated from the nickel and an autoclave step using hydrogen produces nickel and cobalt as high-purity powders. After washing and drying the powder can be packaged or compacted into briquettes, depending on prevailing market needs.