BHP is planning to enter the booming battery marketplace by building the world’s largest nickel sulphate plant at the Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia.
The company revealed at Diggers & Dealers on Wednesday that its Nickel West division would spend $US43.2 million ($54.8 million) on the new facility.
BHP Nickel West president Eduard Haegel said the facility would produce 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate a year, making it the world’s largest exporter.
“Our position in Australia with free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea – the three largest producers and consumers – is a significant competitive advantage compared to other international competitors,” Haegel told delegates in Kalgoorlie.
“We expect to achieve first production in April 2019, subject to receiving the necessary approvals to construct and operate the plant.”
BHP, the world’s leading producer of nickel powder, is looking to capitalise on the forecasted demand for lithium-ion batteries in the coming years, with the likes of Tesla preferring nickel-rich models.
At the proposed facility, Nickel West would convert its powder into nickel sulphate through an automated process.
BHP is also considering a stage two expansion of the nickel sulphate facility to increase production to 200,000 tonnes a year.