THE OPERATOR of the Ramu Nico nickel and cobalt project has set a production target of 83 per cent of the mine’s total capacity for 2015.

The president of Ramu NiCo Management, a subsidiary of China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), Wang Jicheng, said the company would have to overcome technical bottlenecks to reach this target.

But even if this production target was reached, Mr Wang said he still expected the project would make a loss in 2015, due to fluctuating commodities prices and other uncontrolled external and internal factors.

“Currently, we are faced with the development of quality, challenging process bottlenecks, team stability and cross-cultural management and other aspects,” Mr Wang said.

The company would focus on managing cash flow, ensuring competition and health, safety and environment, innovative development and step-up progress in production, as well as making changes in operation philosophy to lift production capacity, he said.

Ramu NiCo chairman Zong Shaoxing said MCC felt the company should be problem-solving-oriented to solve the shortcomings of process and equipment and to eliminate any gaps that may influence nameplate capacity.

Nonetheless, the signs are good, with the project reporting production at a capacity rate of 80% in January.

The company said this was a promising step towards achieving the nameplate capacity of 100% in the near future.

Ramu NiCo said that the adjustment and relationship between the mining and stripping at KBK Mine were factors that contributed to the production rate.

The adoption of an advance management standard which gave KBK Mine a new outlook to eventually overcome technical bottleneck and the unfavorable natural condition including rainy season also contributed.

Ramu NiCo said that while 2014 was a challenging and crucial year for the Project ramp-up, it had ensured the slurry supply to Basamuk Refinery was maintained during the rainy season.

The newly installed sulphur melting system at the Basamuk Refinery would lift capacity and ensure the stability of the main refinery process, Ramu NiCo said.

The system was commissioned in January and was predicted to abolish one of the main bottlenecks experienced by the project.

Other adjustments made at the refinery include the third high pressure acid leaching facility that went into maintenance on 19 January, where the processing technicians successfully brought the parameters and index under control.