Nickel Ore Mining
Nickel ore is one of ANTAM’s important products. ANTAM produces and exports high grade nickel ore with a minimum 1.8% nickel content and a maximum 25% iron content (saprolite) and low grade nickel ore with a 1.2% minimum nickel content (limonite) and minimum 25% iron content.
ANTAM has approximately 361.3 million wet metric tons (wmt) of saprolite reserves and resources and 464 million wmt of limonite resources which could last for many decades at current extraction rates. While ANTAM has more than enough ore to support its current long term nickel expansion plans, in order to prolong the life of its own reserves, ANTAM may seek third party ores to supplement its own supply.
ANTAM’s nickel ore mines are at Pomalaa, Tanjung Buli and Tapunopaka. Pomalaa, Southeast Sulawesi, is ANTAM’s oldest nickel mine and is nearly depleted. Tapunopaka is ANTAM’s newest mine, located in Southeast Sulawesi. Tanjung Buli nickel mine is located in North Maluku.
ANTAM’s nickel deposits are typically shallow. The limonite rests atop the saprolite, is cheaper to mine and the first to be extracted followed by the saprolite. The ores usually can be easily mined and extracted using an open pit mining techniques using simple truck and shovel operations. No drilling or blasting is required. Little beneficiation is required other than drying and screening and sometimes limited crushing of oversize material. In particular, the lower part of the saprolite ore is often lumpy and requires crushing to reduce it to the required size specifications.
Historically ANTAM extracts between 5-9 million wmt of nickel ores annually. However, ANTAM can easily ramp up extraction levels if necessary. Since 2006, ANTAM’s annual production has increased substantially due to strong demand. Some portion of ANTAM’s saprolite production is used as feedstock to produce ferronickel, however the majority of saprolites are mainly exported to Japan and to Europe. Limonites were previously entirely sold to Australia but since 2007 it has been exported mainly to China.