PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Nickel miner Western Areas has unveiled production plans for the next decade.
In the 2022 financial year, the miner expects to produce between 16 000 t and 17 000 t of nickel in concentrate at unit costs of between A$4.25/lb and A$4.65/lb.
The nickel-in-concentrate production targets for 2022 remained in line with those of 2021 and reflected a blended production of flotation concentrate and mill recovery enhancement project (MREP) high grade nickel sulphide precipitate, Western Areas said on Friday. Spotted Quoll provides approximately 60% of the ore feed at Forrestania, with Flying Fox and lower grade stockpile material providing the balance.
“The outlook for nickel demand remains strong with stainless steel and battery metals expected to continue to be in high demand in the medium and long term. Western Areas is one of the few companies that has a clear line of sight toward sustained nickel production into the 2030s,” said Western Areas MD Dan Lougher.
“There remains real potential for further growth in the schedule with projects currently well advanced in studies and planning, such as the New Morning project, that we expect will add additional nickel tonnage to the 10-year base case.
“In the nearer term, our guidance for the coming financial year sees the company maintain its level of nickel-in-concentrate production at Forrestania. An allowance has also been made for the impact of industry-wide cost inflation on both our existing mining operations and capital development expenditure at Odysseus. Odysseus will be our next operating mine, underpinning long-term nickel production for the company,” Lougher said.
Western Areas is expected to spend between A$150-million and A$170-million next year on the development of Odysseus, where first concentrate production remains on track for late in the 2022 calendar year.
Forrestania’s share of nickel production will decline from 2024 onwards, until 2026 when all production for Western Areas will be sourced from the Cosmos operations.
Production in 2023 is expected to be slightly lower than the 2022 targets, but would pick up again in 2024 and 2025, reaching some 17 000 t to 18 000 t, before falling to just over 15 000 t again in 2026. From 2027 onwards, nickel-in-concentrate production is expected to increase again reaching some 21 000 t/y for the period between 2028 and 2031.