First Quantum makes moves at Ravensthorpe

First Quantum

The Ravensthorpe nickel operations. Image: First Quantum Minerals

First Quantum Minerals has proposed to expand its Ravensthorpe nickel operation in southwestern Australia, adding 220ha to the footprint of the Shoemaker-Levy orebody.

Shoemaker-Levy was officially opened in November 2021, adding 20 years to Ravensthorpe’s mine life, and the proposed expansion would add room for extra pits, topsoil storage and construction of water rock dumps.

The proposal was justified by claiming the company had re-evaluated the resource to find the current proposal was not sufficient to keep the mine viable.

“It became apparent that a wider disturbance footprint would be required to account for safely mining the full extent of the pits, as well as an area to store topsoil and construct waste rock dumps,” the proposal stated.

“Without this additional footprint, only part of the identified resource at Shoemaker-Levy would be able to be mined.”

The proposal also identified several environmental areas to address including terrestrial environmental quality, inland waters, social surroundings and greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal outlines how negative effects to each area would be mitigated and will be assessed according to the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

Ravensthorpe currently produces up to 220,000 tonnes per annum of nickel-cobalt hydroxide from multiple deposits which is then processed on site.

The proposal has been made available for public review from April 11 to May 26, 2022, with submissions to be made through the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (EPA WA).

First Quantum acquired the decommissioned mine from BHP in 2010 for $US340 million (then worth about $A370 million) and shipped first nickel concentrate in November 2011.

By 2017 the mine was put on care and maintenance to manage lowly nickel prices, before being restarted once more in 2020.

Ravensthorpe is expected to produce up to 30,000 tonnes of nickel in 2022 in consideration of major shutdowns and descales of autoclaves in March and August.

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