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Ramu nickel-cobalt suspension trims output by 3,300-3,800t

pandemic suspension at Metallurgical Corp of China’s Ramu nickel-cobalt project in Papua New Guinea will trim output, but the company will fulfil its contract obligations, an official said on Saturday.

Nickel and cobalt are key ingredients in making batteries for the burgeoning electric-vehicle industry.

Ramu NiCo Management Ltd suspended operations on Friday and hopes to “resume normal operation in early November”, Albert Tobe, a Ramu deputy general manager, told Reuters.

The two-week suspension will reduce output by 3,300 to 3,800 tonnes of mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP), but the company will fulfil all contract obligations including keeping the current employments status, Tobe said.

Ramu’s production of MHP, a product containing both nickel and cobalt, rose 7.3% in the first half to 43,066 tonnes from the same period last year, co-owner Nickel 28 Capital Corp said in August.

Nickel 28, which owns 8.56% at Ramu, said on Thursday the site had paused production and operations to protect itself against rising COVID-19 cases.

Papua New Guinea, a Pacific island nation of 9 million people, is in its worst coronavirus outbreak, with daily new cases hitting a record 962 on Oct. 22 before easing to 336 cases on Friday, Reuters data showed.

Ramu ran at 102% of its designed capacity to produce 16,578 tonnes of nickel contained in MHP in the first half, up 2% on year, while output of cobalt contained in MHP rose 10.4% to 1,518 tonnes, Nickel 28 said.

Sales of nickel and cobalt content jumped some 50% by volume in the period, it said.

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