The Honeymoon Well nickel project is a greenfield nickel development in Western Australia previously undertaken by MPI Nickel, a subsidiary of Russian metals and mining company Nornickel.
Nornickel signed a definitive purchase agreement with BHP Nickel West, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BHP Group, to sell the Honeymoon Well nickel project, in June 2020.
BHP Group also agreed to acquire the remaining 50% stake in the Albion Downs North and the Jericho exploration joint ventures with Nornickel that also form part of the Honeymoon Well project, as part of the agreement. Citigroup acted as the financial advisor to Nornickel for this agreement.
Honeymoon Well was the last Australian asset remaining in Nornickel’s portfolio, while BHP is well-positioned to develop the property with its previous knowledge of the project. BHP Nickel West is also a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business with all of its nickel mining and processing operations located in Western Australia.
Project location and geology
The Honeymoon Well nickel project is located south of Wiluna, in the northern Goldfields region of Western Australia, approximately 50km away from BHP’s Mt Keith open-pit nickel mine and approximately 100km away from its Leinster concentrator facility.
The project area encompasses the high-grade nickel sulphide deposit Wedgetail, as well as a series of disseminated nickel sulphide ore bodies including Hannibals, Harrier, Corella and Harakka.
The Honeymoon Well nickel asset lies in the Agnew-Wiluna greenstone belt in the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia. The greenstone belt is up to 7km wide in the project area.
The westward sequence of the geological structure is composed of a lower basalt and gabbro unit with laterally persistent basaltic komatite flow. The sequence also hosts felsic to intermediate volcanic and volcanoclastic rocks, and heterogeneous ultramafic bedrock featuring felsic and basaltic sequence.
Nickel resources at Honeymoon Well
The Honeymoon Well project is estimated to contain approximately 173 million tonnes (Mt) of measured and indicated resources grading 0.68% nickel.
The Wedgetail high-grade nickel sulphide deposit is composed of north striking disseminated and massive sulphides with a strike length of 1.7km with widths varying from 10m to 80m.
The massive sulphide breccia varies in thickness from a few centimetres up to 12m. The primary nickel sulphide mineralisation at the deposit occurs as pyrrhotite, pentlandite, pyrite, minor chalcopyrite and trace gersdorffite.
The Hannibals deposit is located along with the western contact of the ultramafic complex and is further divided into the overlapping, stratigraphically equivalent western and eastern fault blocks. Mineralisation occurs as disseminated sulphides.
The sulphide bearing igneous horizons feature both the high-grade copper zones with low nickel sulphur ratios, as well as the low-grade copper mineralised zones with high nickel sulphur ratios. High-grade ore is commonly hosted in black lizardite while the low-grade copper mineralisation occurs in dark to light green lizardite.
The Harrier deposit is located south of the eastern contact of the central ultramafic unit and extends continuously along a strike length of up to 1.7km with widths varying between 30m and 40m.
The Cordella deposit runs along with the north-east contact of the ultramafic unit and is sub-vertical along the strike length with the deeper parts of the southern sequence dipping to the west.
Exploration and development history
The first nickel exploration activities in the Honeymoon Well area began in 1970 under Delhi Oil and Vam Limited and were later joined by CRA exploration which conducted geochemical and geological drilling explorations in the Hannibals, Corella and the Harakka areas between 1972 and 1975.
Outokumpu Exploration Australia, working under a joint venture partnership, pursued further exploration drilling during 1988. Intensive exploration activities in the Honeymoon Well area from 1989 onwards led to the discovery of additional deposits.
Nornickel conducted geological explorations between on the Honeymoon Well nickel project 2015 to 2017 that encompassed the Wedgetail, Hannibals, Harrier, Corella and Harakka deposits as well the prospective Albion Downs North and the Albion Downs South areas.
Nornickel’s subsoil use right to develop the Wedgetail deposit, however, was suspended in 2017 for five years until October 2021.