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Ardea Resources posts hulking six-million-tonne nickel resource

Updated: Mar 27

Nickel-rich goethite averaging 1.75 per cent nickel and 0.46 per cent cobalt from Ardea Resources’ Goongarrie Hub deposit in WA. Credit: File

Ardea Resources has beefed up Australia’s biggest nickel-cobalt resource to 6.1 million tonnes of contained nickel at its Goongarrie Hub project near Kalgoorlie – up from 5.9 million tonnes from the company’s previous calculation.

And management says the amount of contained cobalt has also increased to 386,000 tonnes, edging up from its earlier estimate of 380,000 tonnes.

The company is now putting the final touches to a prefeasibility study (PFS) at Goongarrie Hub for an open-pit mining operation that will feed a 3 million-tonne per annum high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) and a 500,000-tonne per annum atmospheric leach (AL) circuit to produce a mixed hydroxide product to meet the ever-growing demands of the lithium-ion battery market.

The additional resources come courtesy of patent-pending research which squeezes the extra metal from the low-grade “mineralised neutraliser” horizon, a magnesite-laden layer that forms consistently at the base of the nickel-cobalt laterite profile.

In its investigations, the company discovered the mineralised neutraliser could be substituted for limestone in the leaching circuit, reducing costly long-haul limestone delivery sourced from third parties on the Nullabor Plain.

Once the material has been screened and separated, the fine geothite-rich fraction is a viable source of feed to the AL circuit and contributes to the nickel and cobalt production of the Goongarrie Hub – presenting Ardea with a tasty cherry on top.

An added benefit of the AL circuit, not previously considered in the company’s 2018 PFS and expansion study, is the potential to also utilise excess heat and steam to generate power off-grid without fossil fuels, contributing to the project’s important green tick of approval.

Ardea’s Goongarrie Hub sits 70km north-west of Western Australia’s established Kalgoorlie-Boulder mining centre. It is the company’s most advanced operation within its broader Kalgoorlie nickel project and includes the Scotia Dam, Big Four, Goongarrie South and Goongarrie Hill deposits, with Highway some 30km to the north and Siberia North about 30km to the south-west.

All Goongarrie Hub mineral resources are on granted mining leases wholly-owned by Ardea, with native title agreements in place. While the six deposits are the main source of ore feed for the PFS, the company also has plans to incorporate additional feed from Ghost Rocks, Siberia South and Black Range.

Global nickel production is dominated by laterite-rich deposits in the tropics, with Indonesia and the Philippines accounting for the lion’s share. However, the mining and production of nickel-laterites in those regions is presenting a suite of environmental concerns, including water pollution and loss of biodiversity amid a lacklustre regime of environmental, social and governance reporting.

All that on the back of a checkered past for cobalt, a critical component in the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs). The bulk of the in-demand metal is currently sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a less than distinguished human rights track record and a scattergun regard for environmental regulation.

So as leading battery manufacturers scramble for ethically and sustainably-sourced minerals, Ardea’s growing world-class nickel-cobalt laterite resource in WA’s semi-arid temperate woodlands in a well-established mining jurisdiction, could prove to be the company’s greatest asset.

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