‘Sense of achievement’ as BHP processes first Mincor ore

There is a “sense of achievement” that first ore from Mincor’s Kambalda nickel operations has been processed and the company has re-established itself as a producer after a six-year hiatus, the company’s boss says (reports The West Australian).
12th May 2022

hiatus, the company’s boss says (reports The West Australian).

Mincor announced to the ASX on Monday that BHP Nickel West had started processing ore through the newly refurbished Kambalda Nickel Concentrator last Friday.

The processing marks Mincor’s transition from a development company to again be a producer, after it shuttered its Kambalda operations in 2016 after a sustained downturn in prices for the commodity which was then used predominantly in steel making.

It also marks the first ore to be processed through the Kambalda concentrator since it was placed in care and maintenance in 2018.

Mincor managing director David Southam told the Kalgoorlie Miner the feeling on the day of first ore processing was one of “a sense of achievement” for both Mincor and BHP.

Mr Southam said it was also a good day for his company’s shareholders and the community of Kambalda.

He said the company had met its commitment to restart the Kambalda operations.

Mr Southam noted it had been “a crazy journey” to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and skilled labour shortages, which was affecting all businesses, and he gave several reasons the company had been able to achieve its objectives when it said it would.

He noted wider factors such as the excitement around the battery metals and electric vehicle revolution, but also local factors such as “a strong alumni for Mincor”, positive community spirit, the company’s respect for its past, and employing people who were also shareholders in the company.

“We have a strong culture . . . we’re all rowing in the same direction,” he said.

Mr Southam said he was looking forward to receiving the “first cheque” from BHP next month, which would mark the start of “money coming in rather than going out”.

He said there would be more “tinkering and improving and optimisation” taking place at Mincor’s operations as production ramps up to nameplate capacity during the 2022-23 financial year, and the shift from development ore to stoping ore occurs.

Mr Southam noted it was a good time to become a nickel producer, for while there continued to be price volatility because of market and geopolitical issues, the price — which on Monday was $US29,927/tonne — remained almost double what Mincor had been banking on when it set out on its restart journey.

He said the company was employing about 200 people directly and indirectly but always wanted more, and he issued a “shout-out” for mining engineers to “call me direct”.

Mr Southam explained once the nickel was turned into concentrate it would go to BHP’s Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter to become nickel matte, which would be taken to BHP’s Kwinana refinery and made into nickel sulphate, which would end up as a battery metal in an electric vehicle.

BHP Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said BHP was committed to the Goldfields through investment, jobs and providing benefits to the local community.

“Through the restart of the Kambalda Concentrator, we are providing an additional 40 jobs in the Kambalda region, including new to industry and trainee opportunities,” she said.

“As the world transitions to a decarbonised future, BHP’s future facing portfolio, including our nickel assets, will be essential to meet growing demand in the global battery and electric vehicle market.”

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