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BHP Nickel West. Image: BHP.

BHP has confirmed that it will open its Nickel West sulphate plant in Western Australia this financial year after the development was delayed.

The delay means the first product from the plant is now expected in the second half of the 2021 financial year, a year behind the original schedule.

The facility that is located at the Kwinana nickel refinery is expected to produce 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate per annum during its stage one development.

“We continue to focus on finalising Nickel West’s resource transition,” BHP stated in its annual report.

“Leinster B11 block cave is expected to commence the undercut phase during the first half of financial year 2021, providing increasing quantities of ore to the Leinster concentrator as the project progresses to full caving.

Despite the delay, BHP Nickel West had a productive 2020 financial year, progressing the construction of three new mines, with two entering full production within the period.

Mt Keith satellite mine, or Yakabindie began full production in December last year and is now the primary source of feed to the Mt Keith concentrator.

The nearby Venus underground mine transitioned to full production in September last year, hoisting ore to the Leinster concentrator.

Nickel West’s production during the 2020 financial year fell by 8 per cent to 80,000 tonnes per annum due to major maintenance shutdowns at the Kwinana refinery and Kalgoorlie smelter, as well as other routine planned maintenance.

Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation also decreased by $US139 million ($190 million), reflective of the lower volumes and costs associated with the ramp up of new mines.