Map of Tenements held by Braemore (in blue) adjacent to BHP Billiton’s Leinster leases
The Leinster nickel tailings project, located on BHP Billiton’s property some 380 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, is set to be the first of Braemore’s Australian tailings processing projects to be turned to account. Successful completion of a feasibility study will be followed by development and operation of commercial plants to process sulphide nickel and to produce an intermediate concentrate estimated to contain 61% and 65% nickel. It may, in fact, be possible to go further and produce nickel metal.
Subject to certain conditions, BHP Billiton has the right to buy the concentrates and to acquire a 50% interest in the project when it is up and running.
The project is based on metallurgical test work in Australia and Finland that indicated that 75% of the nickel in tailings is in the form of sulphides and 25% as silicates. It also indicated that the nickel sulphides and non-sulphides are both amenable to treatment by direct atmospheric leaching. This, in its turn, removes the need for flotation ahead of the process flow sheet – a development expected to provide significant capital and operating cost reductions.
Preliminary investigations indicated that the project would be viable at annual production rates of between 10,000 tons and 20,000 tons of nickel in sulphides, but this is being re-evaluated and later estimates are that an annual production rate of 26,000 tons appears feasible. In round figures a plant of this capacity will cost some US$350 million.
The existing Leinster tailings have been independently estimated based on historic mill records to contain 135,000 tons of nickel contained in 29.6 million tons of tailings with an in situ grade of 0.46% nickel. It is conservatively estimated that a further 16.9 million tons of tailings grading 0.30% nickel will be deposited over the mine’s remaining operating life.
Our subsidiary, Braemore Nickel, will manage the project and is acquiring mining tenements adjacent to BHP Billiton’s mine. These tenements will be the site for a reprocessing operation and residue dumps. The site is well served by infrastructure, including a gas pipeline to the Kalgoorlie goldfield.
Braemore’s distinctive competitive advantage lies in the unique technology that it has proprietary access to, both in the PGMs and nickel markets.