Resource Mining Corporation (RMC) has been awarded a quarter of a million dollar grant from the Federal Government for an organic acid nickel recovery process study.
The grant, from Commercialisation Australia, will be used to fund work including commercial laboratory testing to refine the process to proof of concept, as well as the hydrometallurgical process of acid regeneration.
The research will develop the proof of concept for an organic leaching process that company has been applying to tropical clay laterite structure that exist at its Wowo Gap nickel and cobalt deposits in Papua New Guinea, and for treating other siliceous nickel laterite orebodies.
According to RMC managing director Warwick Davies "the organic leaching process provides a more cost effective alternative to a standard high pressure acid leach process, and the grant is especially important because it has the potential to change the project economics from a development perspective and better for the environment.
"Commercialisation includes the recovery of the organic acid from the leachate after metal ions have been removed," he added.
Once proof of concept has been accomplished the miner will move to a coping study which will eventuate in the construction of a pilot plant, Davies said.
The nickel industry is expected to grow in the coming years with output expected and actually exceed pre-global financial crisis levels, reaching 197 000 tonnes in 2011-12, IBISWorld believes.
Part of this is due to its close ties to the steel industry, which will grow as the demand for infrastructure support increases up until 2016, on the back of the booming LNG industry.
Much higher prices will drive revenues by nearly 22 per cent to $3.58 billion, a massive turn around after nearly halving in 2008-09.
This projected growth has seen non-mining companies, such as Samsung, get into the nickel market.
The Samsung Group is in talks with emerging miner Metals X to invest in a $2.2 billion nickel project near the meeting of the WA, NT, and SA borders.
"We have held discussions with many international entities including the Samsung C&T Corporation," it said.
A Samsung official told The Australian Metals X’s Wingellina project was potentially in the company’s sights.
It said it was “one of multiple overseas construction projects” currently being considered.
Metals X estimates the Wingellina project could produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel and 3000t of cobalt concentrate per year once operational.
Rising Chinese demand for the metal has also renewed its international interest