PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Innovation in the nickel sector could help to lower mining costs and could assist in resources development, Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion said on Thursday.
Speaking at the Paydirt Australian Nickel Conference, Marmion said that he was hopeful that the nickel price would return to its former glory in the coming years, but noted that the current depressed industry could be assisted with state and federal reforms to address competitiveness and to encourage continued investment in the sector.
Marmion said that during the recent past, nickel had been at the forefront of a number of exploration successes in the state, with about 38-million tonnes of contained nickel estimated to be hosted in Western Australia.
“However, about 68% of this is nickel laterite, much of which is currently uneconomic. This points to the importance of innovation in the industry, particularly in terms of mineral processing,” he said.
The Minister noted that not only were mineral deposits becoming deeper and harder to find, but they also required increasingly sophisticated processes to make recovery cost-effective.
“This makes scientific innovation crucial, which is why the state government is providing A$7.5-million in funding towards the newly rebranded Mineral Research Institute of Western Australia.”
The institute would be focused on research and development that encouraged further investment in the mineral sector, Marmion said, adding that the research would include better techniques and technologies for successful deep cover exploration, more efficient and productive mining methods to bring down costs, and improved processing techniques to render lower ore grades economic.
“But it’s not just the state government that must commit to innovation. Industry must also play a leading role,” Marmion said.
He added that besides supporting innovation, the state government would also address issues that remained within its control. “I can assure you that the state government is committed to reducing red tap and increasing Western Australia’s international attractiveness. Specifically, I want to look at the cost of doing business here in Western Australia and how we can reduce it.”
Marmion noted that despite the nickel industry’s recent tough conditions, the sector was still worth some A$3.7-billion in 2012/13.