First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has officially opened the Shoemaker-Levy mine at its Ravensthorpe nickel-cobalt operations in Western Australia, extending the operation’s life by 20 years.
Ravensthorpe produced 4248 tonnes of nickel for the September quarter while commissioning continued at Shoemaker-Levy, in time for the new mine’s official opening by Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.
“Congratulations to FQM on the opening of the new Shoemaker-Levy mine,” Johnston said.
“Ravensthorpe has felt the impact of a volatile nickel market in previous years but since 2020 nickel prices have trended upwards because of the increasing global production of batteries.
“This new mine will add decades to the life of this rejuvenated operation, securing jobs and strengthening the McGowan Government’s vision for WA’s future battery industry strategy.”
Previously, Ravensthorpe had 10 years of operation remaining, but the addition of Shoemaker-Levy should now see the mine operate until about 2050.
First Quantum acquired the decommissioned mine from BHP in 2010 for $US340 million (then worth about $A370 million) and shipped first nickel concentrate in November 2011.
By 2017 the mine was put on care and maintenance to manage lowly nickel prices, before being restarted once more in 2020.
Since its restart in 2011, Ravensthorpe has sold 202,782 tonnes of nickel and 7527 tonnes of cobalt.
The mine currently employs 650 people with no announcement to date on how the new mine will be staffed.
Earlier in 2021, Korean steel-making company POSCO acquired a 30 per cent share of the Ravensthorpe operations for $US240 million ($310 million), outlining just how much value First Quantum acquired from its deal with BHP.
As part of the deal, POSCO will be provided with a long-term offtake agreement for 7500 tonnes of nickel in mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide precipitate (MHP) per year from 2024.
Outside of steel production, POSCO is a leading integrated producer of cathode and anode materials for the electric vehicle (EV) battery sector.
Following the deal in May, First Quantum chairman and chief executive officer Philip Pascall welcomed POSCO as a new long-term strategic partner in Ravensthorpe.
“Our respective organisations have complementary skillsets which will allow us to maximise the strategic value of Ravensthorpe as a key long-term supplier of nickel to the EV battery sector,” he said.