Western Areas hopes for stellar year

26th April 2017 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Nickel miner Western Areas is tracking at the upper end of its full-year guidance following a strong March quarter, with the miner also reporting its lowest unit cash costs since June 2015.

The total tonnes of nickel-in-concentrate produced during the March quarter dropped slightly from 5 844 t to 5 672 t, compared with the previous quarter, while the total tonnes of nickel sold also dropped from 6 249 t to 5 397 t over the same period.

Western Areas told shareholders on Wednesday that nickel recovery for the quarter was slightly lower than the previous quarter, owing to the inclusion of lower grade ore sorter feed into the blend.

Despite the decline in production, Western Areas reduced its cash costs for the nickel-in-concentrate from A$2.35/lb to A$2.23/lb in the quarter, following the addition of an ore sorter as part of the company’s ongoing innovation and cost reduction/efficiency programme.

After a successful initial two-month trial period, the ore sorter programme was extended to process the entire Flying Fox low-grade stockpile, and during the quarter under review, some 115 820 t of low-grade ore was processed, producing 52 010 t of fines and 13 575 t of accepts.

The ore sorting programme will be completed in the June quarter of this year.

“Our ability to reduce unit costs to their lowest level since June 2015, mostly through innovative operational improvements, such as the ore sorter, is pleasing,” said Western Areas MD Dan Lougher.

“At the same time, we have increased the mineral resource at Spotted Quoll, delivered a positive prefeasibility study and had one of the highest grade nickel intersections ever recorded globally over significant width at Odysseus.”

The study found that Odysseus could deliver an average of 12 000 t/y of nickel-in-concentrate over an initial seven-and-a-half-year mine life.