PT Vale Indonesia officials say plunging worldwide nickel prices hurt the nickel miner last year, leaving profits down some 80% despite higher deliveries. In all, 2012 witnessed net profits of $67 million for the global diversified miner’s Indonesian unit, down 79% from $334 million on the previous year. At the same time, sales fell 22% to $967 million last year, from 2011’s $1.24 billion, reported Vale officials, noting lower selling prices.

“Uncertainties in the global economy weakened the metal and nickel markets,” Vale Indonesia CEO Fabio Bechara said in a statement, pointing to a 26% decrease in the company’s average realized price to $13,552/metric ton—down from $18,296 in 2011.

Nonetheless, Vale reported production up in 2012 surpassing 70,717 mt, up 5.7% from 66,900 mt in 2011; meanwhile deliveries rose 5% to 71,379 mt in 2012 from 2011’s 67,916 mt. Q4 production hit a high of 21,306 mt, up about 4% over 20,418 mt in Q3, owing to an upgraded furnace, to accomplish annual production of 120,000 mt in the coming years.

Vale Indonesia added that 2013’s annual production would increase following upgrade completion of an electric furnace in 2012. “Management is fully committed to improving PT Vale’s capital discipline and cost competitiveness amid current nickel price volatility,” the firm said.

Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd., which holds a 20% stake in Vale Indonesia, announced that both companies have begun a pre-feasibility study for a processing plant in Indonesia to recover nickel and cobalt from low-grade nickel oxide ores.

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