8 Jun 2011

Design fault delays launch of New Caledonia's Vale nickel plant

1:35 pm on 8 June 2011

New Caledonia's Vale nickel company says there has been a further delay in launching full operations at its new plant at Goro.

The plant has cost more than four billion US dollars to construct and was originally due to start production in mid-2009 but Vale now says this is off until the middle of next year.

The Noumea-based head of the Brazilian-owned company, Peter Poppinga, says a design fault in key components needs to be addressed.

The elements to be replaced were built by the Israeli company Bateman which is now being asked to shoulder some of the losses estimated in the hunderds of millions of dollars.

The plan is for part of the production facility to be operational for a test run in September and to complete the repair later, with the plant to reach its full capacity in about three years.

Last year, there was a spill of 670,000 litres of a solution containing acid at the plant but it was contained by a dam.

In 2009, thousands of litres of acid was spilt into the nearby lagoon which is a World Heritage site.