Eramet's SLN nickel unit asks court to name expert for rescue plan

PARIS, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Nickel miner SLN has asked a commercial court in New Caledonia to appoint an expert to help with discussions over a rescue plan, its parent company Eramet said on Thursday.

SLN submitted on Wednesday a request to the court to name an expert under a temporary procedure, an Eramet spokeswoman said.

She declined to give further details, citing the confidentiality of the court procedure.

French-based Eramet, which mines and processes metals including nickel and manganese, has been trying to revive loss-making SLN by reducing costs and boosting exports of unrefined ore.

However, its turnaround effort has been hampered by the impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic on metal prices, as well as protests in New Caledonia against its mining operations.

Eramet said in July that as of end-June there remained only 74 million euros ($87.58 million) out of 525 million euros in loans granted previously by the group and the French state to SLN, and that the rescue plan needed to be accelerated.

The group has requested approval from the New Caledonia authorities to expand further SLN’s exports of low-grade nickel ore in order to boost profitability.

The broader economic downturn linked to the coronavirus crisis has also hurt Eramet’s alloys activity and led it to launch a strategic review of its Aubert & Duval unit that is reliant on aeronautic orders.

$1 = 0.8450 euros Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise