PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Base metals miner First Quantum is targeting the production of between 5 000 t and 10 000 t of nickel from its Enterprise operation, in Zambia, in 2023.
Speaking at the Paydirt Nickel conference, First Quantum’s project manager for Zambia, Jacob Gresham said that the company would look to reach three-million tonnes a year of production in 2023, before pushing out to the four-million tonne a year nameplate capacity the year after.
By 2024, the Enterprise operation is expected to deliver between 15 000 t and 20 000 t of nickel from its sulphide circuit, reaching 30 000 t/y by 2025. Over its 11-year life-of-mine, Enterprise is expected to produce some 280 000 t of nickel.
First Quantum in May this year approved a $100-million capital spend on the Enterprise nickel project, in conjunction with the $1.25-billion expenditure on the Kansanshi S3 expansion, also in Zambia.
Gresham said the approval for the Enterprise project was not only driven by improved market conditions for nickel, but also increased confidence in the current Zambian government.
Meanwhile, at its Ravensthorpe operation, in Australia, First Quantum is looking to ramp up nickel production to between 27 000 t/y and 30 000 t/y in the mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide precipitate (MPH), as well as between 900 t/y to 1 000 t/y of cobalt, said First Quantum’s regional manager Gavin Ashley.
Ashley pointed out that project partner POSCO, which last year took a 30% interest in the Ravensthorpe nickel project for a $240-million investment, is expected to start project offtake by 2024.
Under the terms of the agreement, POSCO inked a long-term offtake agreement for 7 500 t/y of nickel in mixed nickel-cobalt MHP produced at Ravensthorpe, beginning in 2024. The balance of Ravensthorpe’s production will continue to be marketed by First Quantum.
Gresham said that First Quantum also looking to expand its relationship with customers in the electric vehicle supply chain, and is investigating a number of opportunities, including custom feed arrangements from new nickel operations coming online in Western Australia, as well as downstream nickel opportunities both in Western Australia and overseas.
“Really our key objective is to focus on getting Ravensthorpe to be a stable reliable long term nickel producer and feeding into the battery market and being a good social operator down in the Ravensthorpe area,” he added.