GME Resources has had its patent applications for its NiWest Nickel Laterite Project granted.
The applications are for acid regeneration and ore palletisation to be utilised in the proposed heap leach flow sheet at the project.
The patent process has taken close to four years, and GME says provides “important legal certainty about the utilisation of the Heap Leaching and Direct Solvent Extraction – Electrowinning process” that was proposed in its recent scoping study.
This study, released late last year, confirmed the potential economic viability for the development, which would produce around 14 000 tonnes of nickel cathode and 540 tonnes of cobalt over a minimum 20 year mine life.
The acid regeneration process is designed to reduce acid consumption and operating costs by allowing a significant proportion of the acid applied in the heap leach stage to be recovered and reused.
Current test work shows around 30% of the acid used can be regenerated.
Its palletisation process is designed to stabilise the ore and start the leaching cycle prior to the pellets being stacked on the heap.
Both the leach cycle and stabilisation of the heap is a crucial aspect in heap leaching.
GME will undertake large scale metallurgical test work later this year to further refine its process.
The race for a better system to process nickel laterite has seen a number of different methods developed.
Early last year the CSIRO began testing new technology that could unlock around 70% of the world’s nickel supply.
Traditional processing techniques use large quantities of sulphuric acid at high temperatures, which results in an expensive operation with a large environmental footprint.
In a statement the CSIRO said its new method used nitric acid, over 95 per cent of which could be recycled.
Researchers have begun testing the process in a $3.5 million pilot plant in Perth, and if everything goes to plan the technology could be ready for the industry by 2016.