The West Musgrave copper-nickel project is an open-pit copper and nickel mine planned to be developed in the Musgrave Province of Western Australia. The project is jointly owned by OZ Minerals (70%) and Cassini Resources (30%).
A pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the project was completed in February 2020, while a feasibility study (FS) is expected to be completed in 2021.
The PFS predicts 28,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of copper and 22,000tpa of nickel production over an estimated mine life of 26 years, with an estimated capital expenditure of £510m (A$995m).
Construction on the project is expected to begin by the end of 2021 with the start of production expected in 2024.
Location, geology, and mineralisation
The West Musgrave copper-nickel project area is located near the intersection of the borders between Northern Territory, Western Australia, and South Australia.
The project site is located approximately 500km west of Uluru and approximately 30km north of the Jameson community in Western Australia.
The West Musgrave project is based on two copper-nickel deposits namely, Babel and Nebo that lie at a distance of 1.5km from each other.
Discovered in 2000, the Babel and Nebo deposits are situated within an extensive Mesoproterozoic orogenic belt.
The copper and nickel mineralisation in the Nebo and Babel deposits mainly occur in disseminated gabbronorite-hosted sulphides and massive breccia sulphides.
West Musgrave copper and nickel reserves
The West Musgrave project is estimated to hold 220 million tonnes (Mt) of probable ore reserves grading 0.36% copper and 0.33% nickel.
The project is estimated to contain 790,000t of copper and 720,000 of nickel in probable reserves.
Mining and ore processing
West Musgrave will be a conventional open-pit mine involving drill-blast-load-haul operations. The mining fleet will include up to twenty-five 220t haul trucks.
A contract miner is planned to be engaged during the initial five years of the mining operation. Subsequently, the mining activities are expected to be carried out by the mine owners.
The run-of-the-mine (ROM) ore will be sent to a 10 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) processing facility near the mine site.
The ore will pass through two-stage crushing and two parallel vertical roller mills of 5Mtpa capacity each, before undergoing bulk rougher flotation, regrinding, and a two-stage bulk cleaning process for the production of copper and nickel concentrates.
The resultant concentrates will undergo thickening, filtration, and storage before being packed for shipping to the customers in Australia, Asia, and Europe.
The tailings from the processing circuit will be sent to the tailings storage facility (TSF).
The West Musgrave project area will be accessed through an existing 30km-long road from the Jameson that needs to be upgraded as part of the project. An airstrip is also planned to be developed at the project site.
The project is estimated to require 50MW of electricity which is proposed to be supplied from a solar-wind-battery hybrid renewable energy facility.
The water supply for the project is expected to be sourced from the Northern bore field which is located approximately 15km away from the project site, as well as from a local aquifer system.
The project also involves an operations village near the mine site for accommodating up to 400 people.
GR Engineering Services (GRES) provided consulting services for the process plant, while AMC Consultants was involved in the mine planning activities including mine design, scheduling, pit optimisation, and cost modeling.