BHP to keep Nickel West operations


BHP Group will retain its Nickel West business, with a potential expansion of the company’s WA nickel operations likely to generate a higher return, with higher risk, then the Scarborough LNG development.

Chif executive Andrew Mackenzie spoke to a mining conference in Barcelona today, highlighting the positive outlook for battery materials amid increasing demand for electric vehicles.

The company has previously made several attempts to sell its nickel operations in Western Australia, saying as recently as 2017 that it was looking for a buyer.

“Developments such as climate change and dramatic shifts in technology present both challenges and opportunities,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“Nickel West, which we will now retain in the portfolio, offers high-return potential as a future growth option, linked to the expected growth in battery markets and the relative scarcity of quality nickel sulphide supply.”

Nickel is in increasing demand in new battery technologies that mean cars can travel further on a single charge.

Using more nickel also cuts costs by reducing the amount of expensive cobalt, a mainstay of current electric vehicle battery technology.

Western Australia is rich in nickel sulphides which can be chemically processed for use in batteries.

BHP has a 25 per cent share of the Woodside Petroleum-led Scarborough project, with an option to buy another 10 per cent.