Commodities, Exploration/Development, News, Nickel

BHP spending big on Nickel West

BHP Nickel West

BHP has used its presentation at the Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie to reinforce its commitment to its Nickel West operations and the battery metal at large.

Nickel West president Jessica Farrell said the major miner planned to spend more on exploration at the Western Australia operations in 2022 than it has in any other year.

“To underscore this point, this year will be the highest annual spend for exploration in Nickel West since BHP acquired the WMC (Resources) assets in 2005, a testament to the focus and commitment BHP has to its nickel business right now,” she said.

“Nickel exploration targets are also being advanced internationally, which is great to see.”

With 75,000 hectares of exploration potential within the Agnew–Wiluna greenstone belt, BHP plans to spend more than $140 million on brownfield exploration in the next two years to further understand the tenure.

“We have a large nickel sulphide resource with in excess of 7.4 million tonnes of nickel in the Agnew–Wiluna belt that still remains largely unexplored,” Farrell said.

“This is a highly prospective strip, approximately 150km long … and has a number of deposits that we are looking to understand further and potentially mine.”

BHP expects three out of five passenger car sales to be electric by 2030, before rising to nine out of 10 by 2040.

Nickel cobalt aluminium (NCA) and nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion batteries are two of the most commonly used batteries in the EV manufacturing process.

NCAs and NMCs contain 80 per cent and 33 per cent nickel, respectively, while newer formulations of NMCs contain up to 80 per cent.

In the next 30 years, BHP’s lowest plausible case foresees a doubling of nickel demand to meet the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.

Nickel West production decreased by 14 per cent to approximately 76,800 tonnes of nickel during the 2021–22 financial year.

The major miner put this down to COVID-related labour absenteeism and unplanned downtime at the Nickel West oxygen plant leading to a 15-day smelter outage in the June 2022 quarter.

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