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Project on track

NEWS may be quiet on the nickel laterite front in WA, but BHP Billiton remains on target, preparing for its planned 20-year project near Ravensthorpe.

The company has just completed the definition phase of its definitive feasibility study, testing its chosen enhanced pressure acid leach process.

The basic process has been used before, but not in Australia, or with Australian ore.

But following batch testing, rehabilitation trials and crushing trials undertaken thus far, BHP Billiton was very confident of getting it right, a spokesperson said.

A two-month trial open-cut mining program conducted by Macmahon Holdings concluded last month.

Nickel prices have improved this year, and demand is expected to increase from stainless steel applications.

AME Mineral Economics has forecast a demand deficit next year, when BHP Billiton is expecting to make a Ravensthorpe investment decision.

Following the expected first quarter decision, construction, commissioning and full ramp up of the $A945 million mine and processing plant are expected to take a further 4.5 years.

Talking pipe

THE WA Government is still considering delivering WA gas to the eastern States via a transcontinental pipeline.

A Department of Mineral and Petroleum Resources spokesperson said WA’s reserves could help meet growing demand in Australia’s eastern domestic market.

But although the proposition bore huge long-term potential, the DMPR’s consideration was at an early stage, with plenty of jurisdictional and policy issues to be taken into account.

The pipeline would most likely extend to Moomba in South Australia.

Epic Energy, which owns both the Dampier to Bunbury and the Moomba to Adelaide pipelines, is continuing talks regarding a proposed pipeline from Darwin to Moomba and into Queensland and New South Wales.

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