Royal Nickel Corp. (RNC) reported in late March that Tsingshan Holding Group, a party with whom RNC entered a strategic alliance in March 2013, is currently constructing the world’s first integrated nickel pig iron (NPI) plant to utilize nickel sulphide concentrate as part of the stainless steel production process. The plant is expected to begin operation within this year.

According to RNC, this represents the first time that nickel sulphide concentrate will be directly used to create stainless steel, offering potential benefits to the producers of suitable nickel sulphide concentrate feed, including lower costs due to simpler processing compared to traditional smelting and refining, and greater flexibility for more potential partners and customers. This plant may also be capable of handling nickel sulphide concentrate anticipated to be produced from RNC’s Dumont nickel project.

The Dumont project is RNC’s principal asset, located in the Abitibi mining camp some 25 km northwest of Amos, Quebec, Canada.

Mark Selby, RNC interim president and CEO, said, “The Tsingshan plant in China is an industry first and a positive development for projects such as Dumont. This process represents a new source of demand for nickel sulphide concentrate notably at a time when many NPI and ferronickel producers face feed shortages as a result of Indonesia’s recently implemented nickel ore export ban. We view Tsingshan’s investment in this pioneering process as a significant and positive development for the nickel sector, and for Royal Nickel.”

RNC also noted that although a formal memorandum of understanding between RNC and Tsingshan expired on December 31, 2013, the two companies are in discussions with respect to securing additional sources of near-term feed for use in Tsingshan’s new processing facilities, and the potential for Tsingshan to participate in RNC’s Dumont project through a concentrate offtake proposal.