Stainless recovery to drive 2021 nickel demand: Eramet

Stainless steel production will grow significantly in 2021, says French miner Eramet in its 2020 financial report. The company’s nickel producer subsidiary in New Caledonia, Societe le Nickel (SLN), aims to increase its exports to more than 3.5 million wet metric tonnes (wmt) in 2021. SLN currently has authorisation to export 4m wmt of nickel ore per year.

Ferronickel production for the Doniambo plant is also expected to increase, while at Weda Bay mine production is expected to reach more than 6m wmt in 2021, Kallanish learns from the report.

Global stainless steel production was down by 3.8% in 2020 versus 2019. Global demand for primary nickel also declined by 3.6% last year. However, SLN mining production reported strong growth last year, increasing by 16% versus 2019. A notable increase of 45% was registered in the second half-year versus H1. This rise reflects both favourable seasonality in H2 as well as the effects of the company’s rescue plan.

Following its start at end-2019, the Weda Bay mine produced nearly 3.4m wmt of nickel ore in 2020, and is now producing at an annualised rate of 6m wmt per year. The first tapping of nickel ferroalloy took place at end-April. The plant reached nominal capacity from August, ahead of the forecast schedule.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented collapse of the aerospace sector, coupled with a steep downturn in the automotive sector strongly affected the performances of the High-Performance Alloys division from the second quarter. Turnover for the division was down 20% to €680m ($825m), with a negative Ebitda of €119m. French parent company Aubert & Duval’s turnover decreased by 16% y-o-y, with negative Ebitda of €87m.

The group’s turnover amounted to €3,553m in 2020, down by 3% year-on-year. Ebitda totalled €398m versus €630m in 2019 owing to the impact of the pandemic (see separate story).