Australia to maintain second ranking in global nickel production
Australia remains the world’s second largest nickel producer after Russia and ahead of Canada in 2006, despite a small fall in mine output.
Posted: Tuesday , 01 May 2007
Data produced by the West Perth, Australia-based mineral research organisation Intierra shows that Australia remained ahead of Canada to be the second largest nickel producer in the world in 2006.
New discoveries and development and reopening of sulphide nickel mines in the Kambalda district along with commissioning of BHP Billiton's big Ravensthorpe laterite project helped maintain Australia's edge over Canada where the eventual development of Voiseys Bay has been the only prime offset to Canada's industrial problems and cost issues with old mines.
However, figures collated from Intierra's Minmet data base show that, despite the discovery of new deposits and a re-entry into mothballed operations Australia's 2006 output was marginally down on 2005.
Total sulphide production in 2005 was 151,583 tonnes of contained nickel and laterite production was 62,020t of metal, while 2006 saw sulphide production of 135,910t and laterites of 63,310t.
Senior Researcher for Intierra, Mickey Thompson said that to calculate the figures it was important to avoid double counting based on production from Kambalda Nickel Operations, Mt Keith and Leinster, linked to BHP's (formerly WMC) Kalgoorlie smelter and Kwinana refinery. Figures show that within BHP Billiton operations the 2006 output slip may have come from Leinster and Mt Keith, for which public data is difficult to get since the takeover of WMC.
Generally the Kambalda feed sources from junior miners showed a slide from several operations including Independence Group's Long shaft, Mincor's Miitel, but helping counter this were increases for Mincor's Mariners and Redross mine.
LionOre International's Emily Ann produced 1,800 tonnes of contained metal less, the Radio Hill mine 1,700t less while Jubilee Mines produced 1,000t more.
Intierra's chief executive Don Pridmore said that the International Nickel Study Group had shown in 2005 that Russia led global production with Australia second, followed by Canada, Indonesia and New Caledonia.
Australian production should lift significantly in 2007, given that mine expansions are being undertaken by Mincor, Consolidated Nickel and the Sally Malay joint venture at Kambalda; Carnilya Hill is expected to be re-opened by the partnership of Mincor and View Resources, and BHP Billiton's Ravensthorpe project will continue its slow march towards production.
A map just produced by Intierra shows BHP Billiton has the biggest reserves in Australia with 565 million tonnes at 0.63% nickel, taking in the Leinster and Agnew sulphide nickel operations and the advanced Ravensthorpe lateritic nickel project. Second placed is lateritic nickel producer Minara Resources's Murrin Murrin with 140 Mt at 1.1% Ni.
Australia's significant mines hold a total of 762 Mt at 1.16% Ni for a contained 5.902 Mt of nickel metal. The biggest laterite deposits are Ravensthorpe (1.709 Mt contained metal) and Murrin Murrin (1.54 Mt) and the biggest disseminated sulphide deposit is BHP Billiton's Mount Keith with 1.476 Mt followed by that company's Perseverance operations (Leinster) with 347,700t followed by MMC Norlisk Nickel's Cawse lateritic nickel-cobalt deposit with 295,0005.
Intierra's range of data products for the minerals sector is detailed on http://www.intierra.com/