A look at Western Australia
Western Australia is currently the sole producer of nickel in Australia and accounts for seven per cent of the world’s production. The state’s nickel resources consist of both sulphide and lateritic deposits, with most production derived from nickel sulphide mines.
The first major nickel sulphide deposit was discovered at Kambalda with other deposits around Mount Keith, Perseverance and Yakabindie. Major lateritic nickel mines that produce a nickel-cobalt concentrate include Murrin Murrin and Ravensthorpe.
Anticipated demand for battery minerals has encouraged the reopening and development of new nickel mines, such as Cosmos (Western Areas), Ravensthorpe (First Quantum), Mt Keith Satellite project (Nickel West), Cassini and the reopening of the Savannah (Panoramic Resources) underground mine
Potential for further discoveries in new areas is highlighted by the 2020 discovery of the Tier-1 Julimar nickel-copper-PGE deposit, located 70 km north east of Perth. Other notable projects include the Nova nickel-cobalt-copper operating mine, located in the new nickel province of the Albany-Fraser region in southern Western Australia. Nebo-Babel is a significant nickel sulphide deposit located in Western Australia’s Musgrave Province.
Historically, WA’s nickel industry has been unique in that many producers are dependent on the continued operations of competitors. For example, many companies sell ore to BHP Nickel West for processing at the Kambalda and Kwinana facilities. In turn, BHP Nickel West relies on those companies to ensure the smelter and refinery has a consistent supply of ore to maintain operations. More recently, a nickel sulphate plant at Kwinana was opened to produce battery grade nickel for use in electric vehicles.
In 2020-21, nickel was Western Australia’s fourth most valuable mineral sector, worth $3.5 billion. China, South Korea, Japan, Netherlands and the United States account for around 82 per cent of WA’s nickel exports.
Nickel is used on more than 300,000 products including consumer, industrial, military, aerospace and architectural applications with the major use of nickel in the manufacture of stainless steel. The growing need for high grade nickel in batteries for electric vehicles has created a huge demand for Western Australian nickel products.
More detailed information about the performance of WA’s nickel sector, and other commodities, can be found in the Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Statistics Digest or in the latest resource data files.
Details about nickel mines, deposits, prospects and occurrences can be found in the Geological Survey of WA’s Nickel Commodity Summary.