BHP is positioning its Nickel West operations, including this year’s Honeymoon Well acquisition, to benefit from the evolving electric vehicle and battery storage revolution.
Nickel West asset president Edward Haegel, speaking at the Diggers and Dealers conference yesterday, presaged an anticipated nickel boom as the world moves towards cleaner vehicles and batteries.
Haegel’s speech did not give definitive answers to the rumours of a BHP and Tesla partnership as reported by Bloomberg, but addressed Tesla chief executive Elon Musk’s call on nickel producers in this high-growth industry.
“At Tesla’s recent battery day, Elon Musk flagged the enormous demand that will come for nickel as this decade unfolds,” Haegel said.
“His call for nickel miners to grow quickly offers real evidence of the place nickel has as a strategic battery metal going forward.
“Nickel West is well positioned to benefit from this anticipated growth. Last year, we sold around 70 per cent of our nickel to battery manufacturers around the world, making BHP one of the world’s leading battery metal suppliers.”
Haegel said the significant growth in this market will come from existing producers like BHP, which is already the world’s largest cathode producer.
The mining giant recently finalised the acquisition of the Honeymoon Well mine in Western Australia, which Haegel described as “one of our first no regret investments to realise Nickel West’s full potential”.
Several deposits at the Western Australian site are already under consideration, with the Wedgetail deposit the first in line to be developed.
Haegel said BHP was set to provide updates on Honeymoon Well’s reserves and resources “in due course” and was pushing itself to complete further exploration across its Western Australian assets.
“Our exploration continues across the Agnew-Wiluna belt to acquire prospective nickel tenements and we are confident in the scale of the future opportunities as we continue to invest in our existing Nickel West assets,” he said.
As well as unearthing more nickel, Nickel West is furthering its journey to mining cleaner and more valuable nickel, to continue as one of the world’s lowest carbon and sulfur emitters.
BHP is committed to a 30 per cent reduction in its carbon emissions by 2030 and plans to implement these changes by securing renewable power contracts for operations, installing steam generators and solar power across its nickel operations.
“Nickel West is already a very sustainable producer. Nevertheless, we want to continue to improve and part of our Kalgoorlie plan is to eliminate 100 per cent of sulfur dioxide (So2) emissions,” Haegel said.
“Presently, a very small amount of So2 emissions are able to be converted to sulfuric acid at the smelter. It is our plan to upgrade the plant to capture virtually all of the sulfur dioxide air emissions generated from furnace and converter operations, which we are aiming to complete by 2024.”
Despite delays to the upgrade of its Nickel West sulphate plant, BHP is ready to innovate and transform its long-life, low-cost resource asset for the future-facing EV and battery industries.
“Accepting that the world will want our nickel and that we are well placed to provide it with one of the lowest carbon footprints is an exciting prospect for us,” Haegel said.
“We are exploring new future technologies at our smelters and continuing our journey to see high returns as one of the world’s leading class 1 nickel producers right here in Western Australia.”