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Nickel West

Nickel West is a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business with over 3500 employees and contractors. All nickel operations (open-cut and underground mines, concentrators, a smelter and refinery) are located in Western Australia. The integrated business adds value throughout our nickel supply chain, with the majority of Nickel West’s current production sold as powder and briquettes.

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Low-grade disseminated sulphide ore is mined from Mt Keith, a large open-pit operation. The ore is crushed and processed on-site to produce nickel concentrate. High-grade nickel sulphide ore is mined at Cliffs and Leinster underground mines and Rocky’s Reward open-pit mine. The ore is processed through a concentrator and dryer at Leinster. Nickel West’s concentrator plant in Kambalda processes ore and concentrate purchased from third parties.

The three streams of nickel concentrate come together at the Nickel West Kalgoorlie smelter, a vital part of our integrated business. The smelter uses a flash furnace to smelt concentrate to produce nickel matte. Nickel West Kwinana then refines granulated nickel matte from the Kalgoorlie smelter into premium-grade nickel powder and briquettes containing 99.8 per cent nickel. Nickel matte and metal are exported to overseas markets via the Port of Fremantle. Over 75% of BHP’s nickel is now sold to global battery material suppliers. A nickel sulphate plant is currently under construction at the Kwinana Nickel Refinery which will produce nickel sulphate, a product used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles. 

Nickel West is well positioned to be a part of a rapidly growing global battery materials supply chain

Our people share how BHP will seize the opportunities an electrified market presents with the roll-out of electric vehicles.

Key developments during FY2020

The Nickel West resource transition involving the construction of three new mines continued to progress during FY2020, with two of these mines now in full production.
In addition, it was announced that Nickel West will be retained in the BHP portfolio.

The Mt Keith satellite mine (Yakabindie) entered production in December 2019 and is now the primary source of feed to the Mt Keith concentrator.

The Venus underground mine transitioned to full production in September 2019, with ore hoisted to the Leinster concentrator.

Leinster B11 (the first block cave to be developed by BHP, located beneath the Leinster underground mine) proceeded in line with expectations, with development ore hoisted to the Leinster concentrator.

Nickel West signed an agreement to acquire the Honeymoon Well development project on 19 June 2020 and the remaining 50 per cent interest in the Albion Downs North and Jericho exploration joint ventures, located approximately 50 kilometres from Mt Keith. Completion of the agreement is subject to a number of conditions, including government and third party approvals.

Looking ahead

We continue to focus on finalising Nickel West’s resource transition. Leinster B11 block cave is expected to commence the undercut phase during the first half of FY2021, providing increasing quantities of ore to the Leinster concentrator as the project progresses to full caving.

Nickel West also offers development options and potential enhancements to its resource position through exploration and processing innovation. These opportunities are being explored in parallel with incremental debottlenecking opportunities at the concentrators and the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter.

Nickel West is expected to complete construction of the nickel sulphate plant located at the Kwinana nickel refinery in the first half of FY2021, with first product due in the second half of FY2021. This stage (Stage 1) is expected to produce approximately 100 ktpa of nickel sulphate.

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