BHP Billiton to ramp up WA nickel sulphite production for booming battery market

By Addie Thomes

Mining giant BHP Billiton’s Nickel West business has approved a huge expansion of its operations at Kwinana in Western Australia.

The nickel refinery will be expanded to accommodate BHP’s ambitions to become the world’s largest exporter of nickel sulphite, a key component in the production of batteries for cars and other energy storage uses.

BHP wants to produce 100,000 tonnes a year from April 2019, with the eventual goal to produce twice this amount once phase two has been completed.

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The idea is said to have emerged from Tesla founder Elon Musk’s remarks that lithium-ion batteries should be called nickel-graphite batteries. This is because larger amounts of these substances are used in the production of batteries.

There has been an enormous focus on battery storage technology in recent months, not least in Australia where electricity prices are now said to have overtaken Denmark to become the most expensive in the world.

BHP is not the only miner in the WA region to join the race to supply this burgeoning industry. Western Areas has also announced plans to supply the battery market by the first quarter of 2018.

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