BHP opens Australias first nickel sulphate plant

BHP(ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP)said on Fridayit hadproduced the first nickel sulphate crystalsfrom itsplantinKwinana,outside Perth,a part of theminers strategy togrow its battery metals footprintto meet expected soaring demand.

Nickel is a key component for electric vehicle (EV) cathodes, and the worlds no. 1 mining company expects demand for the metal from the batteries sector alone to increase by 500% over the next decade.

Nickel sulphate, a key battery chemical, has much higher margins than nickel metaland BHP believesit will be in high demand due to a spike in the adoption EVs, as governments commit todecarbonizing and setend dates for combustion engine sales.

The facility will create 80 new direct jobs and support 400 new indirect jobs, along with the 200 construction jobs that were created during the construction phase, Farrel noted. The Kwinana plant, which BHP and authorities call an Australian first, will produce 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate per year when fully operational. That is enough premium product to make 700,000 EV batteries each year, Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said inthestatement.

As Western Australias (WA) largest nickel producer, BHPs Nickel West operations play a key role in supporting the states goal of becoming a world leader in future battery minerals, materials, technology and expertise.

Source: Presentation by Eddy Haegel, Asset President Nickel West. August 2021.(Click to enlarge)

Nickel is essential todecarbonizationand Western Australia has some of the largest and highest-grade nickelsulphidedeposits in the world, in addition to leading mining and mineral expertise, state development, jobs and trade minister, Roger Cook, saidin a separate statement.

Over 50% of the plant was fabricated in Western Australia using local skills and suppliers. This included the steel work, fibreglass leach vessels and stainless-steel tanks.Halfthe refineryselectricity needs will be met by solar power, theWAgovernment noted.

WA is the worlds fourth largest nickel producer, with more thanA$3.3 billion(about $22bn)in sales in 2020.

BHPs nickel operations include Mt Keith, Cliffs and Leinstermines. It has concentrators at Mt Keith, Leinster andKambalda, a smelter in Kalgoorlie and the Kwinana refinery.