Ardea Resources is calling for investors for a project that it believes will make it “one of the largest nickel-cobalt-scandium producers in the world”.
Ardea’s Kalgoorlie Nickel Project (KNP) hosts 6.1 million tonnes of contained nickel and 386,000 tonnes of contained cobalt, as well as scandium and other critical minerals. It is the largest nickel-cobalt resource in Australia. The most advanced project is the Goongarrie Hub, 70 kilometres north west of Kalgoorlie.
A 2021 report by Roskill (now Wood Mackenzie) expects Australia to supply at least 25% of the world’s nickel by 2030. In 2022, Indonesia was the world’s largest nickel producer (1.6mt) and in 2021 accounted for 37% of production. Last year Australia was the fifth largest producer (160,000t).
Listed on the WA Investments* platform, Ardea is seeking more than $500 million in an investment partnership with a large organisation that has a strong balance sheet and is geo-politically aligned with Australia.
“Our initial investment case is that the strategic partner comes in and fully funds our definitive feasibility study (DFS) so they can have input into the project scale and the end product specification,” says Ardea Managing Director and CEO Andrew Penkethman.
“Then ultimately, we will need to work together to raise the project development funding for a total capital cost of more than $3b.
“We’ve got the resources already, advantage of the location, established infrastructure, a very supportive community and access to a skilled workforce, and now the most important piece of the puzzle is the capital requirement.”
Penkethman says as the project develops, there will be a focus on having a secure and diverse supply chain.
“In our strategic partner process we are considering geopolitical relationships with Australia, and bearing in mind the need to ensure maximum supply chain flexibility and diversity,” he says.
Acknowledging that aiming to be one of Australia’s largest nickel producers is ambitious, Penkethman is confident the company can achieve this goal with its vision of innovation and sustainability.
At the forefront of innovation
Ardea has lodged an international patent application for its innovative Mineral Neutraliser (MN).
“At the base of our laterite profile which contains the target nickel-cobalt ore, we have saprock with elevated nickel and cobalt, which we term Mineral Neutraliser. The saprock is high in magnesium, with magnesium and calcium, the two primary neutralising agents,” Penkethman says.
“Most operations import limestone to act as the neutraliser, but instead we will be able to source the Mineralised Neutraliser at the base of the laterite deposits from the same open pit operations … and use that as our neutralising agent.
“It is a huge process breakthrough and will lower the CO2 emissions and the environmental footprint of the project.
“It will also provide additional nickel-cobalt production for us, which means higher production while also reducing our costs of importing a conventional neutraliser, such as limestone.”
Focus on sustainability
Being in WA, Penkethman says State and Federal Government regulations provide a strong foundation for ethical and sustainable implementation of the project development plan.
“For example, we will dispose of our tailings (waste by-product) in the exhausted open pit voids, then let them dry out and then put a layer of waste rock over the tailings, then a stockpile of topsoil and then progressively revegetate that area,” Penkethman says.
“So, we have this closed loop as production continues because we expect to have a mine life of at least 40 years and we will have rehabilitation take place as the operation progresses. That is one key example of ensuring ethical and sustainable battery mineral supply.
“Also, we will have already demonstrated that we’ve got industry-leading low CO2 emissions because we have had an independent lifecycle assessment that’s defined 11.9 kilograms of CO2 emissions per kilogram of nickel produced.
“To put that in perspective, a lot of the nickel producers in jurisdictions like Indonesia have CO2 emissions as intense as 60 to 90kg of CO2 emitted per kilogram of nickel produced.”
Heat generated from onsite sulphuric acid production, for process purposes and power generation, will supply the project via steam turbines, allowing it to remain off-grid and reduce carbon emissions.
He says KNP will be on par with projects owned by some of Australia’s largest companies which have paved the way for some of the world’s greatest sustainability improvements in mining.
Playing a key role in WA’s future critical minerals industry
As global demand for green energy continues to grow, Ardea’s large nickel-cobalt deposit places it in a strong position to be a main player in the battery and critical minerals industry.
Ardea’s initial product will be a mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) which is used in the supply chains of the growing area of lithium-ion batteries.
“Lithium-ion battery manufacturers like MHP because they can add that to their process to produce PCAM (precursor cathode active material) and then that’s further processed to CAM (cathode active material) which goes directly into the cathodes of the lithium-ion batteries,” Penkethman says.
KNP was granted major project status in 2022 by the Federal Government.
“Having major projects status gives us direct links to our Federal and State Governments to help streamline the permitting process and helps give us direct access to key policy and decision makers to expedite the project development,” he says.
*WA Investments is a collaboration between CCIWA and Invest and Trade WA.
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