OZ Minerals has received Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approval for its West Musgrave copper-nickel mines in Western Australia, as the company approaches a final investment decision.
The project proposed to develop two deposits (Babel and Nebo) near the intersection of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, 1300 kilometres north-east of Perth.
The operation would have a mine life of 26 years as OZ Minerals seeks to produce about 26,000 tonnes per nickel and 32,000 tonnes of copper per year.
In the company’s quarterly report for December 2021, managing director and chief executive officer Andrew Cole said the project was increasing in cost as OZ targeted a final investment decision.
“The West Musgrave study progressed well during the year with many aspects of the project well advanced and technically de-risked. The team continues to work through a range of value opportunities for inclusion into the project base case albeit we are also seeing capital escalation in a number of areas, with full costings yet to be concluded,” Cole said.
“The project remains on track for a final investment decision in H2 2022, however, uncertainties also remain in relation to ongoing border restrictions, labour availability and the potential impact on project schedule and costs.”
The EPA recommended development of up to 20,852 hectares (ha) with no more than 3830ha of native vegetation cleared.
The recommendation also stated 1.465 billion tonnes of waste rock was suitable for permanent waste rock dumps and a tailings storage facility (or Nebo pit void) would need to contain up to 315 million tonnes (Mt) of tailings.
The project is proposed to be powered by a range of renewable energy sources, as OZ Minerals attempts to operate the site with net-zero emissions by 2040.
With no emissions mitigation measures, the project would produce about 9.48Mt of Scope 1 carbon emissions over its 26-year life. This is equivalent to 364,675 tonnes per year.
With the proposed mitigation measures of wind turbines, solar power and a battery energy storage system, plus a greenhouse gas management plan, the project will begin operating at 196,500 tonnes of Scope 1 emissions per annum – almost halving the potential for Scope 1 emissions.
From 2033, the project will not produce more than 75,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, with carbon neutrality projected for 2040.