After ten consecutive years of losses, Vale SA announced in December 2019 its decision to withdraw from its lateritic ore processing plant in the south of New Caledonia.
The sales of Vale’s stake in the Goro operation was entrusted to the Rothschild bank who relied on two key elements to attract investors: the world class Goro nickel ore deposit and a new, simpler business model that should enable the factory to stop losing money.
After six months of bidding, Vale and the Rothschild bank finally decided to grant an exclusivity period to a junior cap Australian company: New Century Resources Ltd. (NCZ on the Sydney Stock Exchange). Three months later, the Australian company finally announced it had been unable to generate a suitable funding package and equity structure to acquire the Goro operation from Vale SA.
Whereas Vale confirmed their exit and possible care and maintenance of the factory, they are pursuing all efforts to achieve a positive outcome for the future of the operations and in respect to employees, dam maintenance and “Pact for the sustainable Development of the Great South”.
The Brazilian company is now in discussions with a consortium composed of the New Caledonian state-owned company Sofinor* associated with the Korean metallurgist, Korea Zinc* that participated in the competitive process organized by the Rothschild bank and placed an offer end of April 2020.
Because of the Covid crisis, the ability to travel isvery limited. However, on September 16, Vale’s and Rothschild bank representatives attended a videoconference meeting with Sofinor and Korea Zinc representatives. That was the first meeting since the end of the exclusivity period granted to New Century Resources. And the offer is very serious.
André Dang is the President and CEO of the SMSP* / Credits : SMSP.
South Province, French State, customary authorities…
Since New Century Resources retrieved from the competition, a new project has just been put forward by the factory CEO. Even though it appears, a little “fuzzy” at this point of time it resembles to what specialists would call an LMBO. A Leveraged Management Buy-Out. This consists of the takeover of the company by the management and employees together with funding solutions by external investors yet to be found. What is startling is how suddenly this project is born whereas Rothschild spent more than 6 month to select the most qualified candidates for the takeover, amongst which the Sofinor-Korea Zinc consortium. Whereas South Province, French State, local customaries that signed the “Pact for sustainable development of the Great South” and employees are legitimate stakeholders in the takeover, Vale who is the current owner ought to have the final word that will satisfy everyone.
* The SMSP, a South Pacific mining company, owns 51% of a nickel processing plant in South Korea with its partner Posco. It also has a 51% stake in an ore processing plant at Koné, in northern Caledonia with the giant Glencore. Koréan Zinc is a world specialist in non-ferrous metals.
- Main photo > General view of the Vale port in the Prony Bay, southern New Caledonia / Credits : Vale Agency.