SYDNEY, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Production from the Koniambo nickel plant in the South Pacific French territory of New Caledonia has been suspended after a metal spill last week, part owner Glencore said on Tuesday.
Output was put on hold after the spillage from a furnace was detected on Dec. 26, with an investigation underway to determine the cause of the incident, said Glencore.
An initial assessment by staff at the site showed no major structural damage and the impact was contained in a metal tapping area, the company said.
“The rest of the operation is in a steady state, however, production remains on hold,” Glencore said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Tuesday.
There were no injuries or impact to the environment, it said.
Glencore holds a 49 percent interest in Koniambo and New Caledonia firm Société Minière du Sud Pacifique (SMSP)51 percent.
The plant, designed to yield 60,000 tonnes of nickel a year at peak output, was officially opened by French President Francois Hollande last month.
Koniambo produced 8,600 tonnes of nickel in ferronickel in the third quarter, according to Glencore’s latest corporate production report.
New Caledonia, off northeastern Australia, holds as much as a quarter of the world’s known nickel reserves and employs more than 6,000 people in processing the ore. Nickel is a key industry for New Caledonia, accounting for around 20 percent of its economic output, according to government figures.
Operations at the rival Goro nickel processing plant in New Caledonia owned by Vale of Brazil were suspended for three weeks earlier this year after some 100,000 litres of acid-tainted effluent leaked out. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Michael Perry)