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Austmine is partnering with CNRT to solve a critical operational challenge impacting nickel mining projects in New Caledonia.

Austmine is partnering with CNRT to solve a critical operational challenge impacting nickel mining projects in New Caledonia.

A solution is needed to reduce the moisture content of nickel oxide ore and to optimise operations to make the production more resilient to recurrence of tropical rainfalls and further impacts of climate change.


The CNRT Nickel group includes representatives of New Caledonia’s major mining organisations: Société Le Nickel (SLN), Koniambo Nickel Société (KNS), Prony Resources, Nickel Mining Company, Société Minière du Sud Pacifique, Société Minière Georges Montagnat and Société des Mines de la Tontouta.

This challenge is critical to New Caledonia’s nickel production due to frequent extreme weather conditions. Valuable nickel ore is contained in weathered peridotites, silicates and oxides, which are highly porous.

It is common for moisture content to be as high as 20 – 30 per cent in silicate and up to 40 per cent in oxides.

The Problem

High moisture content in nickel ores significantly impacts downstream processes, including materials handling, grinding and sorting, metallurgy and overall cost optimisation.

Impacts include:

  • Safety during shipping – Increased water content can result in high volumes of liquid being released from cargo and impacting the stability of the ship
  • Handling Wet & Sticky Ore (WSO) – Sticky ores impact the feeding of equipment and ship loading rates, causing challenges for operating costs and ESG
  • Demurrage – High moisture content reduces the economic value of ore loaded as cargo and increases costs and energy usage of downstream processing and metallurgy operations
  • Emissions – Significant CO2 emissions result from additional energy needed to process wet ore.

Technologies Trialled

  • Exposure to natural sun (evaporation)
  • Layered stock-piling operations
  • Pile protection from rain (tarp or roof used).

The Solution

A solution to reduce moisture content needs to provide the following outcomes:

  • A process or combination of processes applicable to New Caledonian mines that targets water content reduction within the ranges of 1 – 5 per cent, 5 – 10 per cent or greater than 10 per cent.
  • Must rely on renewable energy supply and not increase operational emissions or pollution
  • Mineralogy of the ore needs to be preserved
  • Focus on reducing moisture for mine site operations, not metallurgy or associated facilities.

The solution must also fulfil the following requirements:

  • Implementable by 2024
  • Comply with ESG standards, regulations and workforce in New Caledonia
  • Cost effective solution that provides easy feeding and reproductible results
  • Accurately estimate, document and achieve desired maintenance costs, energy balance, processing times and production rates
  • Benchmarked against existing solutions.

The Process 

  1. Submission period
    Suppliers are invited to submit their short-form solution to the challenge by Friday 10 February 2023 for evaluation by Austmine and CNRT.
  2. Evaluation period
    Shortlisted suppliers will be invited to a technical briefing, where each supplier will be able to gain more information about the challenge from the CNRT team. This will allow you to refine your proposed solution prior to the next stage.
  3. Pitch session
    This is the opportunity to ‘sell’ your solution and gain feedback from operational teams, presenting directly to the CNRT team.
  4. Full proposal submission
    Following the Pitch Session, shortlisted suppliers are invited to submit their formal technical and economic proposals.
  5. Winner announced
    CNRT participants select the best fit solution/s for the challenge. Unsuccessful submitters are notified in writing by Austmine.
  6. Challenge timeline

Challenge launch webinar: 24th January 2023
EOI submission deadline: 10th February 2023
Technical briefings: 24th February 2023
Pitch sessions: 3rd March 2023
Final proposal deadline: 31st March 2023

Program Overview 

The Global Mining Challenge is coordinated by Austmine and supported by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The program provides new supply and export opportunities for opportunities for Australian METS companies and guides participants through a process of delivering solutions, technologies, and services to major international mining customers.