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Future Australian barons plug into nickel | Blue Mountains Gazette

With demand at an all-time high as economies seek to decarbonise, now is the time for nickel, insists Andrew Penkethman.

The boss of Ardea Resources is sitting on a top-tier resource in what he says is the best mining jurisdiction in the world. And he is not alone.

The federal government is focusing on future economy ingredients such as cobalt, lithium and rare earths.

The production and export of these minerals could create more than 50,000 jobs in southern Western Australia, the Pilbara and South Australia by 2050, according to the Department of Critical Minerals Strategy. Industry.

Nickel, while vital to electric vehicles, wind turbines, hydroelectric blades and other clean energy components around the world, is curiously absent from Australia’s list of priority critical minerals.

But granting major project status to Ardeas’ Kalgoorlie Nickel project at the very least recognizes its strategic importance and the enormous potential of the project.

Mr Penkethman points to “exceptional demand fundamentals” around traditional nickel uses like stainless steel manufacturing as well as the rapidly growing lithium-ion battery supply chain.

As the Managing Director of an ASX-listed resource company, with all it has going for it, “I have a tremendous opportunity to develop a project that will benefit all of our stakeholders for decades to come,” he said.

On the global stage, the International Energy Agency pays particular attention to critical minerals and their role in transport electrification and energy storage.

It says 60-70% of total nickel and cobalt demand will likely go to clean energy technologies to meet global emission reduction targets.

“Electric vehicles and battery storage have already replaced consumer electronics to become the largest consumer of lithium and are expected to take over from stainless steel as the largest end user of nickel by 2040,” adds the agency.

The rating and research firm Standard & Poor’s Global predicts a pivotal year for the energy transition, with the rise of new technologies.

One of the signposts is an increase in electric vehicle sales, a new report says, something generated so far by government support through tax incentives and mandates.

“While politics will continue to be supportive, we expect electric vehicle sales to accelerate in 2022, driven more by actions taken by automakers themselves,” SP Global said.

In total, he expects a record nine million new electric cars, utilities and vans to hit the world’s roads, representing a 40% increase.

Investments in battery manufacturing will lead to cost reductions, the model range will expand and investments will be made in charging infrastructure.

Australian nickel-cobalt play NiCo Resources is already one of the most successful listings so far in 2022 – up fivefold since its debut on the Australian stock exchange in January.

It focuses on an area that straddles the border between Western Australia and South Australia, encompassing the nickel-cobalt riches available at Wingellina (WA) and the Claude Hills (SA) and Mt Davies project areas ( HER).

Strategic player Blackstone Minerals sees exploration areas as particularly important for the development of trade relations between Australia and Asia, particularly South Korea.

“Historically, the Central Musgrave project has attracted considerable interest from major players in battery metals, including Posco and Samsung,” it says.

Meanwhile, the new preferred status of Ardea’s nickel project is expected to attract private capital and streamline the approval process with Commonwealth and state regulators.

At the federal level, the company will have strong support from several government departments, including the Office of Critical Minerals Facilitation and the Major Projects Facilitation Agency.

The new major project tag also paves the way for potential project funding from Export Finance Australia.

Mr Penkethman says nickel is classified elsewhere as a critical mineral due to limited global resources, supply chain security concerns and its importance in transitioning to a low-carbon future.

“I expect nickel to be classified as a critical mineral in Australia in the future,” he says.

Either way, Ardea has a definitive feasibility study underway to determine the extent of the resource and the financial parameters based on 3.5 million tonnes per year.

“The project is expected to be very profitable at a nickel price of $19,000 (A$25,500) a tonne,” Mr Penkethman said.

Prices soared to $100,000 earlier this month, making an unprecedented jump of $70,000 in hours and prompting the London Metals Exchange to halt trading.

While major nickel production in Russia and Ukraine has been disrupted by Moscow’s invasion of the former Soviet satellite, traders are blaming a bad bet by a Chinese manufacturing magnate for the messy market.

“While I don’t expect nickel prices to return to $100,000 a ton in the near future, I do expect attractive prices to continue for the foreseeable future,” the boss said. from Ardea.

It plans to do more than extract raw materials from the ground.

The base case involves an end product called mixed hydroxide precipitate, which is needed by the lithium-ion battery industry.

He says the company also runs a strategic partnership process and has already produced nickel cobalt sulphate to quality specifications during a pilot plant program completed in 2018.

“We are also looking at the potential to produce products further downstream, such as precursor cathode active material,” Penkethman said.

The material is another key component of lithium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles.

“All of these products can be made in Western Australia,” he says.

The director of the US Geological Survey presented the final 2022 list of the 50 critical minerals, adding nickel.

A spokesman for Resources Minister Keith Pitt said Australia’s list of critical minerals is regularly reviewed in the changing global context and updated as needed.

“Nickel is not on the list of critical minerals in Australia,” he says.

Australian Associated Press