First Quantum Minerals has proposed to expand its Ravensthorpe nickel operation in southwestern Australia, adding 220ha to the footprint of the Shoemaker-Levy orebody. Shoemaker-Levy was officially opened in November 2021, adding 20 years to Ravensthorpe’s mine life, and the proposed expansion would add room for extra pits, topsoil storage and construction of water rock dumps.
The proposal was justified by claiming the company had re-evaluated the resource to find the current proposal was not sufficient to keep the mine viable. The proposal also identified several environmental areas to address including terrestrial environmental quality, inland waters, social surroundings and greenhouse gas emissions.
Ravensthorpe currently produces up to 220,000 tonnes per annum of nickel-cobalt hydroxide from multiple deposits which is then processed on site. The proposal has been made available for public review from April 11 to May 26, 2022, with submissions to be made through the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (EPA WA).
First Quantum acquired the decommissioned mine from BHP in 2010 for $US340 million and shipped first nickel concentrate in November 2011. By 2017 the mine was put on care and maintenance to manage lowly nickel prices, before being restarted once more in 2020.
Ravensthorpe is expected to produce up to 30,000 tonnes of nickel in 2022 in consideration of major shutdowns and descales of autoclaves in March and August.