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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 FY2019

Nickel West made significant progress in FY2019 on its transition to become a leading supplier to the battery materials market, selling more than 70 per cent of its production to this sector in FY2019. 
In addition, it was announced that Nickel West will be retained in the BHP portfolio.

Construction of a nickel sulphate plant at the Kwinana Nickel Refinery is underway. Stage 1 is expected to produce up to 100 ktpa of nickel sulphate. 

In FY2019, Nickel West signed an agreement with the traditional owners of the land surrounding used by Nickel West’s operations in the northern Goldfields. In addition to formalising BHP’s relationship 
with the Tjiwarl people, the agreement provides support for the Mt Keith Satellite mine development, which will supply additional ore to the Mt Keith concentrator. Work has begun on the Mt Keith Satellite mine development with excavation of the northern pit (Six Mile Well) and construction of the haul road.

Work has commenced at our underground Venus Mine near Leinster and work on the new main ventilation shaft and pastefill plant are progressing well. Nickel West will operate the underground infrastructure for the Venus mine. 

Development on the undercut for Leinster B11 (block cave) is proceeding in line with expectations, with key underground infrastructure recommissioned and in use.

Looking ahead

Nickel West offers a number of development options and potential enhancements to its resource position through exploration and processing innovation. Our short-term focus is the upstream segment of the nickel value chain through increased exploration activities in Western Australia and continuing nickel mine development in the northern Goldfields.

First ore from the Mt Keith Satellite project is expected by the end of CY2019. Additional capacity from the project will be matched to meet the Mt Keith mill requirements. 

We expect first production ore from the Leinster B11 undercut in the second half of CY2020, pending external approvals.

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