PRODUCTION at WA’s Ravensthorpe nickel mine will re-start within the next few months, according to its new owner, international miner First Quantum Minerals. The announcement, a welcome development for the once troubled mine, was made at the Paydirt Australian Nickel Convention by First Quantum manager government and community relations Dave Coggin.
“Our goal was to begin commissioning by the second half of this year and that goal is now within sight,” Mr Coggin said. “We have taken a very realistic estimation of what we can do at Ravensthorpe and our output target of 39,000 tonnes is about 80 per cent of the forecast 50,000 tonnes estimated by the previous owners.”
Mr Coggin said the jobs created by renewed production from Ravensthorpe were welcomed by the local community, after the devastation felt when previous owner BHP Billiton announced its closure of the mine.
“We expect employee numbers at Ravensthorpe will build towards 500 by next year from the current 300 permanent staff on site,” Mr Coggin said. The Ravensthorpe mine site, 550 kilometres southeast of Perth, was closed in January 2009, resulting in 1800 employees losing their jobs. BHP blamed the drop in the price of nickel resulting from the GFC as the reason for shutting down and subsequently selling the mine. First Quantum bought Ravensthorpe in December 2009, at a cost of US$350 million. After taking ownership of the mine, First Quantum spent six months and a further US$200 million upgrading it. Mr Coggin said modifications to the project’s plant were in their final stages and pre-commissioning was under way. “The modifications have covered a range of components including a new dewatering facility at the beneficiation plant, upgraded buffer and storage ponds, upgraded tailings dam, bagging facilities and additional diesel power capacity,” he said.
Beyond the company’s initial production target of 39,000t for its first five years of production at Ravensthorpe, First Quantum reported that it expected an average production rate of 28,000
tonnes per annum. The mine has a 30-year life, and initial ore feed will come from the project’s Halleys, Hale-Bopp and Shoemaker-Levy ore bodies.