BHP is accelerating the development of its Nickel West division ahead of expected growth in demand driven by the electric vehicle sector.
The company has used the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie-Boulder as an opportunity to talk up the revival of the Western Australian business unit in recent years.
This year was no different, as Nickel West asset president Eddy Haegel provided an update on the status of existing projects and plans to ramp up exploration.
Haegel revealed BHP analysis that forecasts electric vehicle sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of between 19 and 36 per cent by 2030.
“We do not expect to see a big impact on nickel demand from batteries until the mid to late 2020s. Only then do we expect to see serious industry investment by class one nickel producers,” Haegel said.
“However, we at Nickel West will not rest waiting for that day to arrive. We are actively developing options to position ourselves for a once in a generation opportunity.”
BHP aims to meet the emerging demand by transitioning to new mines while replenishing its reserves, which have already risen from 654,000 tonnes in 2016 to 1.506 million tonnes now.
The projects contributing to this progress include Mt Keith Stage H, which will be completed in the next few months, and the in-development Leinster B11, its first block cave.
BHP is investing further in Nickel West by launching a greenfields exploration campaign, increasing brownfields exploration, debottlenecking of its key facilities, and trialling the HPOX technology for nickel.
For its greenfields exploration, BHP has secured a tenement package (called Seahorse) that covers an area of approximately 13,000 square kilometres in south-east Western Australia.
“With a stable platform to build upon Nickel West now has an opportunity to make a series of no regret investments,” Haegal said.
“These investments would use the next few years to position the asset and de-risk future larger investments that have the potential to realise Nickel West’s full potential subject to the world evolving as we expect.
“These pathways have the potential to create a BHP scale business. These pathways build upon themselves offering the potential to grow Nickel West.”
BHP already sells 75 per cent of its nickel production to the battery sector and with these plans will only expand on this figure in the coming years.