The Kambalda nickel project is an underground nickel mining complex being developed by Mincor Resources in the north Kambalda district of Western Australia.
The project will initially focus on the development of Cassini and the Northern Operations (Long and Durkin North mines) mine, with the Miitel mine planned to be developed in the latter half of the project life.
A definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the integrated nickel mining project was completed in March 2020, while the final investment decision (FID) on the project was announced in September 2020.
While the Northern Operation mine clearance permit is already in place, approval for the development of the Cassani nickel deposit was received from the Government of Western Australia in December 2019.
The Cassini mine was officially opened in March 2021, while the first nickel-in-concentrate from the Kambalda nickel operations (KNO) is expected to be produced in the first quarter of 2022. The project envisages a total output of 63,000 tonnes (t) of recovered nickel-in-concentrate over the initial five years of operations.
Location and geology
The Kambalda nickel project comprising the Cassini and Northern Operations mines is located in the north Kambalda district of Western Australia.
The Cassini deposit lies at the southern section of Widgiemooltha Dome, approximately 60km south of the Kambalda Township. Its geology comprises a repeated sequence of ultramafic extrusive and intrusives with intercalated sediments and acid volcanics, with the nickel sulphide mineralisation occurring at the base of the ultramafic sequence.
The Durkin North ore body of the Northern Operations, occurs to the north of the Durkin mine workings, whereas the Long deposit, which is also being redeveloped as part of the Northern Operations of the Kambalda nickel project, lies to the east of the existing Long decline at the northern deeps end of the Long mine, approximately 900m away from Durkin North.
The proved and probable ore reserves of the Kambalda nickel project are currently estimated to be approximately 2.30 million tonnes (Mt) grading 2.8% Ni, and containing 65,400t of nickel, while the measured, indicated, and inferred mineral resources at the Cassini, Burnett, Miitel, Durkin North, and the Long deposits are estimated to be approximately 2.92Mt at an average grade of 4.1% Ni, containing 119.5-kilo tonnes (kt) of recoverable nickel.
The Cassini mine development will include the construction of offices, workshops, raw water pipeline, poly-lined raw water dams, on-site communication systems, surface fuel systems, and haul roads. It will also involve two new 11kV and 66kV transmission lines each 4km-long.
The supporting facilities for the Northern Operations mine will include underground power and dewatering systems.
The Kambalda nickel operations will receive electricity supply from BHP Nickel West under a power purchase agreement (PPA).
Mining and ore processing
The Kambalda nickel project will employ an underground mining method with box-cut mine access for extracting the ore.
The extracted ore from Cassini and Northern Operations will be hauled to a nearby processing plant for the production of nickel concentrates.
Ore tolling and concentrate purchase agreement
BHP Nickel West signed a binding ore tolling and concentrate purchase agreement (OTCPA) with Mincor Resources in August 2019.
Under the agreement, Mincor Resources will have the right to process up to 600,000t of nickel sulphide ore at BHP’s Kambalda nickel concentrator, and the produced nickel concentrate will be purchased by BHP Nickel West for further processing at its Kalgoorlie nickel smelter and Kwinana nickel refinery.
Pit N Portal (PNP) was awarded an underground mining contract for the project by Mincor Resources in May 2020.Its scope includes five years of underground mining services for the Cassini mine and a three-year contract for the Northern Operations mine.
Hampton Mining and Civil Services was contracted for site clearance, infrastructure clearing, and the excavation of the box-cut for the Cassini mine in February 2020.
Entech was engaged for the mining engineering, geotechnical, and reserves estimation works, while Cube Consulting was hired for the resource upgrades.
Operational Geotechs was contracted for the geotechnical evaluation whereas Botanica Consulting carried out environmental works. Orimco provided debt advisory services to Mincor Resources for the project funding.