BHP Nickel West mine receives EPA backing

BHP's Nickel West at dusk

BHP Billiton Nickel West’s proposal to build and operate a new nickel sulphide mine near Leinster in Western Australia has been approved by the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The company plans to integrate the satellite mine into the Mt Keith operation, extending its mine life by 12 years.

The proposed Mt Keith project is anticipated to generate around 9.6 million tonnes (Mt) of nickel ore per year.

It is part of BHP Nickel West’s plan to transition into a globally significant battery materials supplier, revealed by asset president Eduard Haegel at the 2018 Diggers & Dealers Mining forum.

The company also forecasts that around 90 per cent of its sales will be made up of its battery materials sector by fourth quarter 2019.

Haegel said of the project in August, “[The Mt Keith satellite mine] will be a very low-cost development. There will be no infrastructure constructed at all. Ore will be brought back to the Mt Keith concentrator.”

BHP’s latest proposal includes the development of two open mine pits, a waste rock landform and ancillary infrastructure, including two bridge crossings over Jones Creek.

EPA chair Tom Hatton said the Mt Keith satellite mine had been subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment process.

“Following assessment, the EPA concluded that the Mt Keith satellite project could proceed subject to strict implementation conditions,” Hatton said.

“Nickel West demonstrated appropriate engagement with traditional owners during the design on the mine site and developed suitable management procedures for impacts to flora and vegetation including avoidance of clearing in the Wanjarri nature reserve.”

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is open to public appeal until December 3, before a final decision by the Minister.

This is the first in a series of WA-based mine developments BHP has planned to strengthen supply to the battery materials sector.

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