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IGO weighing downstream nickel processing

21st March 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Battery minerals major IGO is investigating the potential downstream processing of nickel to produce a cathode precursor product.

Speaking at the Paydirt Battery Minerals conference, in Perth, IGO CFO Kath Bozanic said that the downstream processing option was in line with the company’s desire to be a vertically integrated business.

“We believe there's an opportunity to process our nickel concentrates through a downstream refinery in Western Australia to produce a precursor product which would be sold directly to the battery supply chain. We want to replicate the integrated lithium business we currently have at Greenbushes and Kwinana in our nickel business,” Bozanic said.

She told delegates that IGO had taken a ‘clean slate’ approach to the often convoluted and cumbersome process to move nickel into precursor material, with the company’s approach using low pressure, low temperature leaching of nickel concentrate to produce nickel sulfate in solution which could then be combined with cobalt and magnesium to produce pre canned products.

“We envisage this being done in an integrated facility removing cost carbon and improving metal recovery. We're working through the key steps to move this project down the development pathway including securing land and seeking a partner who would bring their technical precursor experience to a potential future joint venture,” Bozanic said.

The feasibility study and a final investment decision on the downstream project is expected in mid-2024.

Meanwhile, Bozanic also noted that the final investment decision on the second train at the Kwinana lithium hydroxide refinery was expected during the 2024 financial year, following front-end engineering design work.

She acknowledged that the production ramp-up of the first train of the lithium hydroxide refinery had been ‘challenging’, but said the joint venture partners had a clear plan to increase production output over the next 12 months to reach its full 24 000 t/y capacity.

“Looking further ahead, there's the option for us to add a further two trains being trained three and four, bringing total capacity to 96 000 /y.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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