BHP’s bid to revitalise its Goldfields nickel business has hit a fresh milestone, with Nickel West set to start work this month to develop two new open pits to feed its Mt Keith operations.

The mining giant has received its final approval from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety to develop the deposits, 450km north of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Located 20km south of the Mt Keith mine, the satellite deposits are expected to deliver nickel to the Mt Keith concentrator for up to a decade.

It is understood the Goliath and Six Mile Well pits will support about 100 jobs.

Stripping and clearing is expected to begin this month, with mining due to start in March and first ore expected by the end of 2019.

Previously known as Yakabindie, the high costs predicted for a standalone development kept the project on ice for decades, but BHP has described mining the deposits as a satellite of Mt Keith as a “low cost” option.

The news comes after Nickel West pushed the button last year on the Venus development at its Leinster underground mine.

With a $55 million nickel sulphate plant being built at BHP’s Kwinana refinery, the mines are coming online as BHP eyes a new market for its nickel in electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries.

BHP Nickel West Asset President Eddy Haegel said work to access the satellite pits was already under way.

“Dozers have immediately started preparing an initial access road from Mt Keith to Six Mile Well, which will allow operations to start work at Six Mile Well,” he said.

“The most important milestones have now been met.

“This is a great achievement for Nickel West and a real validation of the terrific opportunities we have in Western Australia for supplying nickel to the battery materials industry.”

Just five years ago BHP revealed plans to shut its then loss-making nickel division by the end of the decade in the face of low prices and its failure to sell the unit before embarking on a turnaround plan three years ago.

Mr Haegel told delegates at last year’s Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum that BHP aims to extend the division’s life to 2040.

 

Image: BHP Nickel West Assest Manager Eddy Haegel, The Kalgoorlie Miner