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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 31) - Nickel price has soared in recent years following an increasing demand spurred by China’s industrialization program.

Because of this, the China Metallurgical Construction Corp (MCC) is working under a tight schedule to bring on production at Ramu, targeting a 2009 start of nickel and cobalt production.

This would mean an 8.65 percent interest for Highlands Pacific shareholders when the Ramu project comes into production with a further opportunity to boost this interest to 20.55 percent down the track with Highlands being a joint venture partner with MCC in the nickel cobalt project.

Highlands Pacific Ltd chairman Robert Bryan gave hope to the company’s shareholders after much debate about falling production performance of the Kainantu gold mine.

He said he implication for Highlands was that its interest in Ramu is looking more attractive by the day.

From an average of around US$15,000 (PGK45,577) per ton in 2005, nickel is now fetching US$50,000 (PGK151,925) per ton on the world’s market today," Mr. Bryan stressed.

MCC had come under some criticism regarding working conditions onsite at both the mine site at Kurumbuakari and the plant site at Basamuk that has been closely monitored by Highlands.

"It is pleasing to note the overall improvement in these areas and the commitment of MCC to strengthen its ongoing relationships with the project landowning community, the business community and all levels of government," Bryan noted.

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