BHP Nickel West's Mt Keith operation

EPA backs Mt Keith expansion

Monday, 19 November, 2018 - 14:01

The revival of BHP’s Nickel West business has taken another step forward with the environmental watchdog recommending approval of a satellite mine at its Mt Keith operation.

The Mt Keith satellite project, often referred to as Yakabindie, is located 20 kilometres from the existing Mt Keith nickel mining operation, north of Leinster.

The proposed mine will produce around 9.6 million tonnes of nickel ore a year for potential use in long-life lithium batteries.

The ore will be trucked to the existing Mt Keith mine for processing.

The proposal includes development of two open mine pits, a waste rock landform and ancillary infrastructure, including two bridge crossings over Jones Creek.

BHP Billiton Nickel West will also clear 878 hectares of native vegetation.

Environmental Protection Authority chair Tom Hatton said the project had been subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment process.

“Following assessment, the EPA concluded that the Mt Keith satellite project could proceed subject to strict implementation conditions,” Dr Hatton said.

Nickel West demonstrated appropriate engagement with traditional owners during the design of the mine site and developed suitable management procedures for impacts to flora and vegetation including avoidance of clearing in the Wanjarri Nature Reserve.”

Nickel West asset president Eduard Haegel has previously stated that the project’s attractions include the minimal capital expenditure.

“To recap, the only capital that we need to invest – aside from the pit excavation – will be for dewatering and constructing a road to the Mt Keith concentrator,” Mr Haegel said in a presentation last year.

“There are no offices, maintenance facilities, processing plants or tailings dams to build,” he added.

“The proposal uses road trains to haul the ore to the Mt Keith concentrator, stockpiling the waste locally, making this a low-cost development for Nickel West.”

Mr Haegel said the satellite project, along with two cutbacks to the Mt Keith pit, could extend the life of the Mt Keith concentrator to 2040, and provide a base load of 40,000 tonnes of nickel in concentrate throughout this period.

The EPA’s report to the environment minister is now open for a two-week public appeal period.