Western Areas confident of strengthening nickel market

Western Areas has capitalised on strong nickel trading during the December quarter despite being impacted by lower grades at the Forrestania operations in Western Australia.

The company’s average realised price of nickel jumped from $9.28 per pound in the September quarter to $10.31 per pound in the December quarter.

“Nickel has benefitted from strong stainless steel production rates and reduced availability of nickel pig iron feed stocks in China,” Western Areas stated.

“The emerging electric vehicle (EV) market is beginning to gather pace as globally governments move to incentivise low carbon transportation adoption, thereby increasing demand for base metals.

“Western Areas continues to believe that nickel rich battery technology will play a large role in EV batteries, which provides significant encouragement for nickel’s long-term demand outlook.”

The company was challenged by resequencing activities at the Flying Fox zone at Forrestania and increased dilution within the intrusive pegmatite unit at Spotted Quoll.

It produced 3535 tonnes of nickel at Forrestania during the period, down from 4417 tonnes in the September quarter.

Western Areas managing director Dan Lougher is confident that production will improve at Forrestania in 2021.

“Access to the remaining higher-grade areas at the Flying Fox mine was re-established during December,” Lougher said.

“Looking ahead, we believe production will improve across Forrestania as we mine sequentially through higher grade areas of the mines.”

To secure its future in Western Australia’s nickel market, Western Areas has also progressed its development at the Odysseus underground nickel mine in Western Australia, achieving 998 metres of total mine development in the December quarter.

This includes 506 metres of Odysseus decline development and major civil works, including completion of the shaft pilot hole that allows Western Areas to commence shaft back reaming this month as per schedule.

Western Areas also completed civil concrete works for the winder and winder house foundations at Odysseus, with all head gear and assets delivered from South Africa.

As part of Western Areas’ Cosmos operations, Odysseus will be a long-life asset to the company.

“It’s excellent to see the significant progress being accomplished at our Odysseus project,” Lougher said.

“Strong development advancement rates have been attained in the Odysseus decline (and) great progress has been achieved on the shaft civil works with the winder house construction progressing at full speed.”

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