Western Australian Minister for Mines, Petroleum and Housing Bill Marmion has officially opened Direct Nickel Limited’s new test plant at the CSIRO Australian Minerals Research Centre in Perth. Direct Nickel has developed a revolutionary hydrometallurgical process for treating nickel laterites called the DNi Process, which is designed to treat limonitic and saprolitic ores in a single flowsheet.

The DNi Process promises the $30 billion a year nickel industry greater efficiencies through materially lower capital and operating expenses, and an environmentally sensitive re-use of the nitric acid used as the reagent.

Direct Nickel has developed and tested its process since 2006, spending $35 million to advance the potential industry-changing technology. This work has culminated in the building and commissioning of a state-of-the-art processing test plant designed to treat around 1 tonne per day of laterite feed. The company says results from the test program will provide sufficient technical and economic data for a feasibility study for a commercial plant.

Direct Nickel’s chief executive officer Russell Debney says the official opening was an opportunity to recognize the work and commitment of a range of stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, technical partners and contractors. “I am extremely pleased to advise that the test plant has operated safely and to plan during the initial stage and first eight of an expected 19 campaigns. The test plant and the cooperative research project with CSIRO have been classified as a Flagship Project under the Australian Growth Partnership Program.”

DNI says the test plant program would not have been possible without the close technical and financial involvement of the company’s industry, strategic and R&D partners, including Teck Resources and the CSIRO. The international significance of the DNi Process is also recognized under DNi’s Co-operation Agreement with Indonesia’s largest nickel producer, PT Antam which is supplying technical staff to the operating team for the plant from July.

“In addition to recognizing our dedicated operational team of employees, technical partners and contractors, the board of Direct Nickel would like to acknowledge the strong support DNi has received though CSIRO. We have clearly benefited from the association, and we believe there is no better place to prove the case for our technology than at the Australian Minerals Research Centre in Perth,” Russell Debney says.

At the test plant, stage 1 of commissioning is now operating in continuous mode and commissioning of stage 2 modules is scheduled for completion this month. The formal testing program will be completed in 2013 and Direct Nickel is already reviewing plans for development of the first commercial plant to commence in 2014.


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