BHP boss Andrew Mackenzie has given the clearest indication yet that the mining giant will not be selling its WA-based Nickel West division.

Speaking at a mining conference in Barcelona yesterday, Mr Mackenzie said the company would retain the business within its existing portfolio because it offered “high-return potential as a future growth option, linked to the expected growth in battery markets and the relative scarcity of quality nickel sulphide supply”.

“Developments such as climate change and dramatic shifts in technology present both challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“To make sure that we secure the future prosperity of our company, we constantly test our current assets and future options against many divergent scenarios for how the world will look well into the future.

“Decarbonisation, the electrification of transport, the future of work and food security are examples of strategic themes that we monitor.”

In August last year, Mr Mackenzie poured cold water on rumours of an imminent sale of Nickel West, saying the company was “taking a pause” with its divestment ideas.

Nickel West had been slated for sale by BHP after it failed to make the cut of assets in the spin-out of South32 in 2015.

The unit has since sat on BHP’s books under the inauspicious title of “other” with continuing speculation about its future.

Under the management of Eddy Haegel, Nickel West has announced a wave of developments designed to keep the division operating until 2040.

New mine developments around Leinster aim to help underpin a 100,000 tonnes per annum nickel sulphate plant at its Kwinana refinery to supply battery-grade nickel products.

It is also eyeing a stage two expansion of the plant to double production as well as the option of producing another battery material, cobalt sulphate.

The division expects to send 90 per cent of its nickel into the lithium ion battery market by the end of the year.

Image: BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie, The West Australian.