BHP’s Nickel West business unit is progressing a series of mine developments in Western Australia to strengthen supply for the battery materials sector.
Nickel West asset president Eduard Haegel, speaking at the 2018 Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum, outlined how the unit will continue its shift in focus to the emerging sector.
The developments will support a plan to transition into a globally significant battery materials supplier, focusing on a 6.2Mt nickel sulphide resource base that will underpin supply to 2040.
Haegel told the Forum that the company was seeking environmental approval for the Mt Keith Satellite project, known as Yakabindie, as the first development. Yakabindie would be integrated into the existing BHP operations at Mt Keith.
“This will be a very low-cost development,” Haegel said. “There will be no infrastructure constructed at Yakabindie at all. Ore will be brought back to the Mt Keith concentrator.”
The Betheno deposit, north of Yakabindie, could be Nickel West’s next opportunity following Yakabindie according to Haegel, with potential for iron-rich sulphides compared to other parts of Mt Keith.
Haegel said Nickel West’s Leinster concentrator was also rebuilding production, with an aspiration to return to 40,000t/y in the coming years as new mine developments come on stream.
Nickel West will achieve this by developing its known resource base at Leinster. It has internally approved the execution of the Venus deposit at Leinster and hopes to receive regulatory approval later this year.
“I am very pleased to advise that first stoping production is expected towards the end of this financial year,” Haegel said.
BHP has also approved initial funding to develop the Leinster B11 deposit. However, Haegel would not reveal the size of this investment.
He described B11 as a low-capital, low-operating-cost development that will leverage existing infrastructure at Leinster.
“The project should be fully approved to produce 600,000t of ore per year and it could have the capacity to increase to 1Mt/y if we need to. First production from the cave is expected in mid-calendar year 2020,” Haegel said.
“It would be the lowest cost underground ore source in the Nickel West portfolio.”
Nickel’s West’s move into the battery materials sector has already been rapid. It forecasts that around 90 per cent of its sales will come from the battery materials sector by fourth quarter 2019.