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BHP Nickel West operations. Image: BHP

BHP has recognised community engagement as equal in importance to the sheer volume of battery metals required by 2050.

With the world’s light vehicle fleet set to reach about one billion electrified units by 2050, the need for battery materials is an ever-present issue for major miners like BHP.

The company has estimated the next 30 years will see copper demand double and nickel demand quadruple, asking questions of where these resources will come from, and how.

BHP Group sustainability and public policy officer Tony Cudmore said the key to sourcing such a vast amount of metal will be collaboration.

“We’re very optimistic that it is achievable if we all work together. If we have partnerships between government, business, scientists, consumers and policy makers,” Cudmore said.

“The world is going to need to work together to meet this enormous change in the composition of economies, the composition of energy supplies and how we create value in the world in order to meet the world’s decarbonisation ambitions.”

Cudmore acknowledged that metals like copper and nickel could be found around the world, especially in mining hubs like North America, Chile, and Australia. But a more global effort would be needed to satiate the world’s hunger for electrification.

BHP is working in a number of regions to develop the battery metals necessary for future growth.

At the company’s annual general meeting earlier in November, chief executive officer Mike Henry said the company was well positioned to benefit from increased exploration activities.

“In copper, we have some solid growth ahead over the next five years, thanks to the recently commissioned Spence growth project (in Chile), improving grades at Escondida (in Chile) and more reliable production out of Olympic Dam (in South Australia),” Henry said.

“We have increased our exploration effort and have work underway in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Mexico, the US and Australia.”

In October, BHP and Red Tiger Resources executed an exploration joint venture to bring the Intercept Hill copper project, which borders Oak Dam in South Australia, into production.

In May, BHP exercised a farm-in agreement for the early-stage Elliott copper project in the Northern Territory, entering into a joint venture with Encounter Resources.

Wherever the metals are sourced, Cudmore said community engagement will be integral to accessing larger and larger resources.

“A really important part of the challenge is in how these resources are produced and how we minimise environmental impacts, but also how we partner with communities,” Cudmore said.

“Wherever we work in the world, that ability to partner with communities is going to be a hallmark of a successful mining and metals company in the years to come.”