First Quantum could restart Ravensthorpe amid surging nickel prices

First Quantum Minerals has signalled the potential comeback of its Ravensthorpe nickel-cobalt operation in Western Australia next year if commodity prices continue to rise.

The restart of the mine, which is at a ready level, could happen as early as the first quarter of 2020, First Quantum revealed in its March quarter management discussion and analysis report.

First Quantum has commenced initial planning for the resumption of Ravensthorpe’s operations and completed refurbishment of its atmospheric leach reactors during the quarter.

Restart costs of Ravensthorpe are estimated at $US10 million ($14 million).

“A sustained rise in the nickel price would initiate plans that have been developed for employee recruitment, contract mining arrangements, camp reinstatement as well as enhancements to identified process circuit opportunities,” First Quantum reported.

Ravensthorpe incurred $4 million care and maintenance costs in the first quarter of this year. Contractor and maintenance costs were also higher than expected due to increased repair activities within the process plant, according to First Quantum.

The former BHP operation has been placed on care and maintenance following the suspension of operations in October 2017 due to the persistently low nickel price.

First Quantum’s total copper sales volumes went down by six per cent in the March quarter on the same period in 2018, but this was also offset by a slightly higher realised price.

The Canadian-based miner has six operating copper mines globally, including Kansanshi (the largest copper mine in Africa), Sentinel in Zambia, Las Cruces in Spain and Guelb Moghrein in Mauritania.

Ravensthorpe generated a $US146 million revenue from its nickel production and $US17 million from cobalt in 2017.

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