Feb. 15 -- Sumitomo Metal Mining Co (5713.T) said on Tuesday it would spend $168 million on its planned move to beef up capacity at a domestic nickel refinery to handle raw metal produced at a project in the Philippines.
Japan's top nickel producer had said in its mid-term strategy that it planned to increase refining capacity at its Niihama nickel refinery to 65,000 tonnes per year in fiscal 2013/14 from 41,000 tonnes currently.
The extra capacity will help the firm refine metal from the nickel project it is developing in the Philippines through subsidiary Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp.
Sumitomo Metal Mining said in September 2009 that it would start commercial operations at the 30,000 tonnes-a-year Taganito nickel plant in August 2013 with plans to keep it running for 30 years. [ID:nTOE68E070]
"We officially decided on the timing and amount of the investment for the domestic refinery's expanded capacity, so it can accept more raw material for refining when production increases from Taganito," a company spokesman said.
The company said the expansion work is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.
The Taganito plant uses high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) technology, which employs low-grade laterite ores to produce nickel which previously were usually abandoned.
Nickel is widely used in kitchen appliances and cutlery.
Apart from Taganito, Sumitomo Metal produces 22,000 tonnes of nickel annually using HPAL technology at its Coral Bay plant, also in the Philippines.