Cunico Resources is a Balkan company headquartered in Amsterdam that produces ferronickel at the FENI plant in Kavadarci, North Macedonia, and at the NewCo Ferronikeli plant in Kosovo. Ferronickel is primarily used to make stainless steel. It was in 2013 a joint venture between Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and International Mineral Resources (IMR).
BSGR documents in 2007 described it as a publicly-owned subsidiary, like Nikanor Plc in the Congo.
Operations in North Macedonia
The FENI plant, first planned in 1970, was commissioned in 1982 with an annual capacity of 12,000 tonnes.
Cunico acquired FENI in 2005. The biggest ferronickel electric furnace in the world was in 2013 operated by FENI in Kavadarci, and it had an annual capacity of 22,000 tons. Cunico decided in 2013 to shutter its Rzhanovo mine and focus its mining efforts on its Guatemalan operation.
In 2009 scientists from the Saints Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje and the Geological Survey of Slovenia who tested moss samples found that nickel concentrations were 15 times higher than anywhere else in North Macedonia. The report concluded: “This fact confirms the influence of the air pollution with dust from the ferronickel plant in the larger region of the city of Kavadarci.”
The Rzanovo mine was an open pit nickel ore mine in the southern part of the country that supplied a portion of the raw materials used by FENI's smelter before 2013. It was shuttered in January 2013.
In 2014, 83,915 t of ferronickel was exported by FENI, primarily to Europe and Asia.
In October 2017, only one of its two furnaces was in production. Sales were primarily to the Chinese. BSGR had sold most of its shares in Cunico to its partner IMR, keeping only 8%. At that time IMR held 91% of Cunico.
In January 2020, it came to light that Cunico had sold its Kavadarci operations to Global Special Opportunities, a private equity fund which planned to invest 100 million euros in the facility and rebrand it as Euronickel.
In February 2020, Cunico Resources "claimed that the SDSM government had interfered in the sale of its Kavadarci ferro-nickel mine, effectively resulting in the bankruptcy of the operating company."
Operations in Kosovo
The metallurgical complex near the city of Drenas Kosovo was built in 1984.
In 2006 Cunico acquired NewCo Ferronikeli. It was an "operation beset by explosions, fires, and dangerous levels of pollution". In June 2011 residents thought that NATO was bombing them again, but it was only an explosion at the Cunico smelter.
The company was sued in September 2011 for air pollution. Kosovo's environment ministry published a report that said the plant had exceeded nine times the legal limit, and it "had failed to install its own pollution monitoring system to measure the problem".
In 2012, "The ombudsperson’s report for the 2012 year concluded that “huge projects of the public and private economic operators… such as Ferronikeli, pollute the environment without any mercy and cause irreparable consequences.”"
In 2016, Glencore noted in its Nickel Market Developments report that Cunico-Kosovo had shuttered its operations due to a "subdued price environment".
In July 2018, Cunico entered into an agreement with Albania's Balfin to sell them its Kosovar operations.
Operations in Guatemala
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- "Anfield Gold Announces Default of Cunico and Enters into Agreement with International Nickel Supply SA". GlobeNewswire, Inc. 10 November 2017.
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