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The B11 block cave at BHP’s Nickel West operations in Leinster, Western Australia is now fully operational.

The B11 block cave is considered to be one of Nickel West’s most innovative operations and is expected to act as a sustaining nickel producer in Leinster for the next seven years. It’s anticipated to recover over 80,000 tonnes of nickel.

The block cave becoming fully operational follows the firing of the last drawbell last month. A drawbell refers to the opening in which caved ore is extracted once the undercutting is completed.

“This is a first for BHP and (it) was a huge commitment for the business to take on,” BHP northern operations general manager Mike Moscarda said. “Now that it’s complete, it will contribute up to 50 per cent of the ore in production at Leinster.”

The block cave will now act as a technical centre, and it will help shape Nickel West’s future mining techniques.

BHP described block caving as a mining method that allows for safe, low cost continued production as it removes people from the most hazardous areas of the mine while remotely targeting the ore above. It will also help reduce the impact of seismic activity.

BHP manager mining Leinster Brendon Shadlow said the block cave project started to ensure mining was more sustainable at B11 since it was a site known to face seismic activity.

“The mine had to close following some major seismic activity in 2013,” Shadlow said. “With the new block cave, we can safely and efficiently continue mining even in the event of seismic activity.”

This achievement from BHP comes off the heels of its strong September 2023 quarter report and divesting its Daunia and Blackwater metallurgical coal mines to Whitehaven Coal for up to $US4.1 billion ($6.4 billion).