Nickel Exploration Activities Continue To Boom In Australia

By @chelean on
A worker poses with a handful of nickel ore at the nickel mining factory of PT Vale Tbk, near Sorowako, Indonesia's Sulawesi island, January 8, 2014.
IN PHOTO: A worker poses with a handful of nickel ore at the nickel mining factory of PT Vale Tbk, near Sorowako, Indonesia's Sulawesi island, January 8, 2014. Indonesia's ban on exports of key mineral ores - unless they are processed in the country - risks backfiring as weaker commodity prices mean it is not cost-effective to invest in expensive smelters and refineries. Picture taken January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Yusuf Ahmad

As one of the world’s biggest nickel producing nations, one would think that Australia would run out of resources pretty quickly. But the number of nickel exploration activities that are happening in the country is a testament to the fact that Australian’s nickel mining industry has no plans of waning anytime soon.

According to Strategic Elements, an Australian gold miner that has recently revealed a collaboration with Dr. Franco Pirajno to conduct frontier exploration in Western Australia, there are large areas of Western Australia that remain virtually unexplored in terms of mineral potential. The company believes that exploration of these frontier areas with different models of mineralisation provides the best chance for making a significant new discovery.

Indeed, one of the few Australian companies that explored the country’s western frontier was richly rewarded with a huge nickel discovery. Sirius Resources is currently developing its Nova nickel mine located in Australia’s Fraser Range region, which is expected to be one of the lowest cost nickel mines in the world, with an all sustaining cash cost of US$2.09 [$2.62] per pound. The company plans to start production in 2016 with an initial funding of $150 million and $440 million in available debt funding. According to GMP Securities analyst Duncan Hughes, the project could generate significant interest because of the concentrate’s anticipated high quality.

Similarly, nickel exploration company Rumble Resources has moved forward with its plan to develop its Fraser Range tenements, particularly the Big Red and Zanthus Projects, by announcing that a $1.7 million share placement will be used to fund extensive exploration programs on the said sites. Additionally, the company has hired former coal billionaire Nathan Tinkler as its new corporate advisor. According to Rumble Resources CEO Shane Sikora, “His experience in large scale financial raising will be of great benefit to Rumble shareholders.”

But nickel mining explorations are not concentrated in Western Australia alone. In South Australia, Monax Resources’ Western Gawler Craton Project is going to commence on-ground exploration drilling by June 2015 after the signing of its Native Title Mining Agreement with the Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation. Exploration drilling will be funded up to $100,000 by the Plan for Accelerating Exploration government initiative. Aside from mining magmatic nickel-copper mineralisation akin to that of Sirius Resources’ Nova deposit, Monax Resources’ drill program will also focus on finding mineralisation similar to the Tropicana gold deposit, which is located on the margin of the Albany Fraser Belt.

All these nickel exploration projects cement Australia’s status as one of the world’s largest nickel miners. However, there are also other potentially huge nickel deposits found in other parts of the world, such as the Kun-Manie Project operated by Russian nickel copper sulphide miner Amur Minerals Corporation (OTC:AMMCF). With an estimated 67 million tons of nickel content, the deposit is touted as one of the top 20 largest nickel mines in the world. Amur Minerals is now awaiting the final approval of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for its mining license in order to start production.

With all these potential sources of nickel supply, it seems like the metal is not poised to run out anytime soon.

Contact the writer: a.lu@ibtimes.com.au