Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter has praised the contribution of BHP Billiton’s $US2.1billion Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation to regional Western Australia at the official mine opening in late May.
The project, 35km east of Ravensthorpe, will employ 650 workers in the south-east of the State and produces up to 50,000 tonnes of nickel and 1,400 tonnes of cobalt per annum over its 25-year lifespan.
Carpenter said the project was the culmination of eight years of work by BHP Billiton and three tiers of Australian government.
“This project is as much about the development of regional WA communities as it is about the State’s buoyant resources sector,” he said.
“An historic 2004 agreement saw the State Government contribute $18million, the Federal Government $9.8million and BHP Billiton $9.5million to the development of multi-user infrastructure in the Shire of Ravensthorpe.
“State Government funding was contingent on a regional workforce rather than a fly-in, fly-out operation being employed.”
New infrastructure developed in the Shire of Ravensthorpe includes the Hopetoun Primary School, Ravensthorpe Airport and Ravensthorpe Entertainment Centre. Several roads have also been upgraded.
The Premier said infrastructure pressures associated with the growth of Hopetoun as a residential base for mine workers allowed the Government to explore new energy, water and wastewater solutions.
“The State Government and BHP Billiton have asked LandCorp to lead a study to establish an innovative solution for infrastructure problems in Hopetoun and other regional towns across WA,” he said.
The Ravensthorpe Nickel project is the single biggest investment in BHP Billiton’s history, including the associated upgrade of the Yabulu refinery in Queensland.
WA’s nickel industry is the third largest in the world.
BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus said the project had set a new benchmark in the development of social infrastructure for resources projects.
“I’d like to acknowledge the State and Federal Governments for their support of community infrastructure and congratulate the Shire of Ravensthorpe on integrating this major new operation into the social and economic landscape of the region,” Argus said.
“As well as its important social and economic outcomes, Ravensthorpe Nickel has further developed WA’s nickel laterite technology and enhanced the State’s already formidable reputation for mineral processing.”