Western Areas assets a buffet of opportunity for IGO

2nd August 2022 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

KALGOORLIE (miningweekly.com) – Six weeks out of completing the acquisition of Western Areas, ASX-listed Independence Group (IGO) is working on ways to optimise and increase profitability from the newly acquired assets.

Speaking at the Diggers & Dealers conference, IGO MD and CEO Peter Bradford said that the company was looking at leveraging some of the learnings from its Nova operation to the newly acquired Forrestania assets, and was doing a systematic review of the tenements.

At the Cosmos operation, IGO has taken the decision to push back first concentrate production from late 2022 to mid-2023, allowing the company additional time to ensure shaft completion, complete more mine development to enable multiple ore sources, and to expand the process plant build from the planned 750 000 t/y to 1.1-million tonnes a year.

Bradford said that in parallel, IGO is also doing the work to understand the upside potential on the concession package. Prefeasibility studies at the low-grade Mount Hood nickel sulphide deposit are also under way, with IGO working to understand the exploration potential on the concession.

IGO will lift its exploration spend to A$75-million in 2023, taking into account the expanded portfolio and the priority that the company has placed on the Forrestania and Cosmos assets, in order to understand the brownfield potential.

“In parallel with all that, we're looking at the opportunity to go downstream to convert our nickel sulphide concentrate into nickel sulfate for the battery industry. We did some work on that a few years ago. The Western Areas transaction has enabled more work and we are doing that in partnership with Wyloo Metals and expect to complete a feasibility study in mid-2024,” said Bradford.

He told journalists on the sidelines of the conference that should the nickel sulfate study prove positive, a final investment decision on the sulfate project was expected soon after.

“The aim would be to collaborate with a chemical company and to co-locate both a nickel sulfate plant and a cathode precursor plant, and instead of making a nickel sulfate crystal in bags that we then ship overseas, we'll pump nickel ions in solution across the fence into the cathode precursor plant that reduces the capex and opex cost on our side of the fence, and also reduces the capex and opex on that side of the fence.

“So if you think about it from an end-to-end perspective, we're getting a better overall value proposition. And the whole industry needs to be thinking about those things all the time - how we can, you know, from mining to refining, how we can get the best end-to-end outcome,” Bradford said.