Ardea ramps up WA nickel plant by 50 per cent

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The Goongarrie Hub will produce mixed hydroxide precipitate, or “MHP”, for lithium ion batteries
Camera IconThe Goongarrie Hub will produce mixed hydroxide precipitate, or “MHP”, for lithium ion batteries Credit: File

Minerals explorer Ardea Resources has boosted the scale of its Goongarrie Hub nickel-cobalt project by almost 50 per cent to 3.5 million tonnes per annum, or “Mtpa” and flagged a decrease in carbon emissions by adding an atmospheric leach circuit.

The company is conducting a definitive feasibility study, or “DFS” to evaluate the numbers around its multi-deposit nickel and cobalt laterite resources at the massive Kalgoorlie project, one of the largest of its type in the world.

The proposed high pressure acid leach, or “HPAL” and atmospheric leach, or “AL” processing at Goongarrie will produce mixed hydroxide precipitate, or “MHP” which is the preferred nickel-cobalt input for the lithium-ion battery, or “LIB” sector.

Ardea first announced the DFS for Goongarrie in mid-2021 bringing on board international metallurgical consultant, Wood Engineers to carry out a gap analysis study. A gap analysis study assesses the performance of a business unit to determine whether business requirements or objectives are being met. Wood has backed Ardea’s plant expansion to 3.5 million tonnes per annum.

Baseline production capacity at Goongarrie will be 3.0Mtpa dry feed to a two-train HPAL circuit treating goethite and beneficiated siliceous goethite ore to maintain feed grades in excess of 1 per cent nickel. The company says additionally serpentine mineralisation will be utilised in an AL circuit treating 0.5Mtpa of leach feed.

Testwork commenced at the ALS metallurgical laboratory in Perth to confirm the process with two HPAL autoclaves with each rated at 1.5Mtpa, as well as an AL circuit of 0.5Mtpa.

The company said other stakeholder negotiations were ongoing including groundwater extraction licences and engagement with the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Southern Ports Esperance.

Ardea’s Kalgoorlie Nickel Project is one of the largest nickel-cobalt resources in the world.

In response to the growing demand for sustainably and ethically sourced minerals to assist with the transition to a low carbon future, the Goongarrie Hub project scale has been increased to 3.5Mtpa, utilising well understood and proven technology.

To build upon the successful feasibility study work completed in the past, the flow sheet has been enhanced to maximise resource utilisation and minimise carbon emissions with the addition of an Atmospheric Leach circuit. This will increase the sulphuric acid requirement and require a larger sulphur burning acid plant, with consequent increase in steam generation which facilitates the off-grid, carbon free, site energy balance.

The independent assessment by consultants Wood of the work completed to date by the Ardea team and service providers is supportive of the base case being carried forward to complete the DFS. Results from in progress metallurgical testwork will be used to refine the flow sheet and production mine plan, with additional results to be reported as they become available.

Ardea’s Managing Director, Andrew Penkethman

Last month Ardea shares went on the tear after the company announced a massive sulphide channel flow deposit at its Emu Lake prospect in WA. Assay results sent the market into a frenzy with 50 per cent surge in its share price.

A thick intercept of 2.72 metre sulphides running at 5.42 per cent nickel and 0.85 per cent copper from 391.04m included 1.23m at a stunning 8.22 per cent nickel and 0.56 per cent copper from 391.04m.

The strike follows on from diamond drill hole results tabled late last year that gave up 4.8m at 1.44 per cent nickel and 0.16 per cent copper from 365.9m with 1.10m of this running at an impressive 4.78 per cent nickel and 0.16 per cent copper from 366.9m.

The Emu Lake prospect is part of Ardea’s Kalpini project located 70 kilometres northeast of Kalgoorlie. Kalpini covers over 121 square kilometres of ground that hosts 20km strike length of prospective ultramafic rocks within mostly granted mining leases. Emu Lake is only 35km east of the Poseidon owned Black Swan nickel project that hosts the legendary Silver Swan underground mine.

Ardea seems to be sewing a tapestry of good news with impressive drilling results from the Emu Lake exploration project and a 50 per cent plant upgrade for its flagship Goongarrie Hub. At over US$24,000 per tonne, it’s not a bad time to be in nickel.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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