13/10/2020 - 13:30

Electric future drives Nickel West goals

13/10/2020 - 13:30

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Demand for electric vehicles has given BHP’s nickel business a new lease of life.

Eddy Haegel says BHP has excellent ‘green’ credentials. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

BHP’s Nickel West business unit is keen to build on its relationship with the world’s leading electric carmaker, Tesla, as demand from the battery sector for nickel promises to eventually overtake that from stainless steel mills.

Earmarked for closure or sale, the nickel division of BHP was seen just a few years ago as a business unit with minimal growth prospects.

Potential buyers who scrutinised the nickel division, which grew out Western Mining’s Kambalda operations, walked away when confronted with a $1 billion environmental clean-up bill.

Tesla and other electric carmakers dramatically changed the outlook for nickel, especially BHP’s operations, which are able to supply high-quality feedstock for battery production.

BHP Nickel West president Eddy Haegel told delegates at the Diggers & Dealers mining forum earlier today that Nickel West had excellent ‘green’ credentials, which should enable it to sign a substantial supply deal with Tesla.

Mr Haegel’s presentation focused on plans to eliminate sulphur emissions at the company’s Kalgoorlie nickel smelter, and cut carbon emissions at its operations by 30 per cent by 2030.

This will include an 18-megawatt solar installation at its northern Goldfields mines and concentrators, backed by a 9MW battery storage system.

“Accepting that the world will want our nickel, we are well placed to provide it, with one of the lowest carbon footprints,” Mr Haegel said.

He said about 70 per cent of Nickel West’s annual output of 80,000 tonnes was going to battery manufacturers.

Mr Haegel is predicting a surge in demand for battery-grade nickel from the mid-2020s into the 2030s.

“Nickel West is well positioned to benefit from this anticipated demand growth,” he said.

“Our customers and future customers are increasing their demand for clean nickel products and a clean supply chain.

Mr Haegel said commissioning of BHP’s new multi-million dollar nickel sulphate plant in Kwinana, which has suffered delays, is expected in the first half of 2021.

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