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BHP has signed a major research agreement with the University of Leicester, the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Macquarie University in New South Wales, to identify new areas for the discovery of metals critical to electric vehicles (EV).

Craton Margin Exploration Targeting 4D is a two-year project funded by BHP’s Resource Centre of Excellence and Metals Exploration, and will support three post-doctoral research fellows located in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Dr David Holwell from the University of Leicester’s Centre for Sustainable Resource Extraction in the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, will work in partnership with BHP to explore deposits of nickel and copper.

“We are delighted to have agreed this partnership with BHP,” Holwell said.

“It is particularly exciting to have the opportunity to apply some of our recent and ongoing research on nickel-copper-platinum group metal deposits directly to exploration targeting.

“We have a truly international and diverse team with complementary expertise, and I am very excited to get started!”

The collaborative research project will challenge scientists’ current understanding of the nickel mineral system, potentially opening up new exploration search space for nickel across the globe.

Nickel is a major component in the lithium-ion battery cathodes used in the manufacture of EVs.

The project team also includes Professor Marco Fiorentini and Dr Weronika Gorczyk at UWA, Professor Steven Foley at Macquarie University, and Dr Daryl Blanks as the BHP research fellow at Leicester.

The BHP project team includes Dr Libby Sharman and Dr Nicole Januszczak.

“We are very proud to collaborate with BHP to tackle key knowledge gaps that currently hamper successful exploration of metals needed for the green future of our planet,” Fiorentini said.

The project and partnership with BHP have developed directly from recent work by the Leicester-UWA group that has shed new light on the processes involved in the sources and transport mechanisms of metals through the lithosphere in magmatic systems.