BHP confirmed it has achieved first nickel sulphate crystals from its Kwinana plant south of Perth, Western Australia.
The facility, which is still ramping up, is set to produce 100,000 tonnes annually at prime production and is the first of its kind in the country. The output, BHP highlighted, is enough premium nickel sulphate to make 700,000 electric vehicle batteries every year.
The plant was created using local suppliers and skills, the miner said, and will process the input once it exits the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter and is transported to the kwinana nickel refinery and refined into briquettes or powder. It will then travel the leaching tanks, purification technology, crystallizer, dryer and automated packaging system as nickel sulphate.
End users will be global battery markets via the Port of Fremantle. “We expect demand for nickel in batteries will increase by 500% in the next decade,” BHP Nickel West Asset President Jessica Farrell said. “Our investment to upgrade the refinery to produce high purity nickel sulphate, along with nickel powder and briquettes, will enhance Nickel West’s position as a supplier of choice for the growing global electric battery market.”
The start-up of the facility is the miner’s latest step in its journey to maintain its position as one of the world’s leading nickel suppliers to the battery metals market. It currently sells 85% of its nickel metal to the market.
BHP said in July that it has signed a deal to provide nickel from its Nickel West assets to electric vehicle maker Tesla.
In addition to the supply agreement, the companies will collaborate on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable, with a focus on end-to-end raw material traceability using blockchain; technical exchange for battery raw materials production; and promotion of the importance of sustainability in the resources sector.
Further, BHP and Tesla will work together on energy storage solutions to identify opportunities to lower carbon emissions in their respective operations through increased use of renewable energy paired with battery storage.