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Acid Plant Database  November 19, 2021

Owner Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations Pty Ltd

First-Quantum-Logo.jpg (2380 bytes)


Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
(155 km west of Esperance)

Background Formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of BHP Billiton www.bhpbilliton.com
2009 - Acquired by First Quantum Minerals Ltd.
Website www.first-quantum.com
Plant -
Coordinates* 33° 38' 39" S, 120° 23' 52" E
Type of Plant Sulphur Burning
Gas Source Elemental Sulphur
Plant Capacity 4400 MTPD
SA/DA 3/1 DA
Status 2009 - Operation suspended
2011 - Operations resumed
2017 - Plant placed on care and maintenance
2020 - Plant restarted
Year Built 2007
Technology Aker Kvaerner Chemetics
Contractor Monadelphous www.monadelphous.com.au
Remarks Single train acid plant
- dual firetube boilers (60 barg, 500oC)
- gas/gas heat exchanger and superheater internal to converter
- hot water heat recovery for desalination and power plants
Pictures    First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-2.jpg (34143 bytes)  First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-3.jpg (289017 bytes)  First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-4.jpg (3654131 bytes)  First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-5.jpg (187555 bytes)  First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-6.jpg (165220 bytes)  First-Quantum-Ravensthorpe-7.JPG (57449 bytes)
General The Ravensthorpe's open cut mine will produce up to 220,000 tonnes per annum of mixed nickel and cobalt hydroxide – containing 50,000 tonnes of nickel and 1400 tonnes of cobalt – to be shipped through the Port of Esperance to Queensland for refining.
References -
News November 19, 2021 - First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has officially opened the Shoemaker-Levy mine at its Ravensthorpe nickel-cobalt operations in Western Australia, extending the operation’s life by 20 years.  Ravensthorpe produced 4248 tonnes of nickel for the September quarter while commissioning continued at Shoemaker-Levy, in time for the new mine’s official opening by Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.  “Congratulations to FQM on the opening of the new Shoemaker-Levy mine,” Johnston said.  “Ravensthorpe has felt the impact of a volatile nickel market in previous years but since 2020 nickel prices have trended upwards because of the increasing global production of batteries.  “This new mine will add decades to the life of this rejuvenated operation, securing jobs and strengthening the McGowan Government’s vision for WA’s future battery industry strategy.”  Previously, Ravensthorpe had 10 years of operation remaining, but the addition of Shoemaker-Levy should now see the mine operate until about 2050.  First Quantum acquired the decommissioned mine from BHP in 2010 for $US340 million (then worth about $A370 million) and shipped first nickel concentrate in November 2011.  By 2017 the mine was put on care and maintenance to manage lowly nickel prices, before being restarted once more in 2020.  Since its restart in 2011, Ravensthorpe has sold 202,782 tonnes of nickel and 7527 tonnes of cobalt.  The mine currently employs 650 people with no announcement to date on how the new mine will be staffed.  Earlier in 2021, Korean steel-making company POSCO acquired a 30 per cent share of the Ravensthorpe operations for $US240 million ($310 million), outlining just how much value First Quantum acquired from its deal with BHP.  As part of the deal, POSCO will be provided with a long-term offtake agreement for 7500 tonnes of nickel in mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide precipitate (MHP) per year from 2024.  Outside of steel production, POSCO is a leading integrated producer of cathode and anode materials for the electric vehicle (EV) battery sector.  Following the deal in May, First Quantum chairman and chief executive officer Philip Pascall welcomed POSCO as a new long-term strategic partner in Ravensthorpe.  “Our respective organisations have complementary skillsets which will allow us to maximise the strategic value of Ravensthorpe as a key long-term supplier of nickel to the EV battery sector,” he said.

August 9, 2017
- Canadian mining giant First Quantum Minerals has announced it will mothball its Ravensthorpe nickel operations in WA's south-east from early next month because of low nickel prices.  The Toronto-based company employs about 270 people at the Ravensthorpe mine and the closure will hit the community hard only months after devastating floods ripped through the region.  First Quantum said it would cost about $10 million to enter care and maintenance, which should be in effect by early October.  The annual bill of maintaining the site is estimated at $5 million.  In a statement, First Quantum's chief executive Philip Pascall described the decision as "disappointing".  "Ravensthorpe is an excellent operation with an outstanding workforce and supportive community but the continuing depressed nickel market conditions, over some years, leaves us no option," he said.  "Over the next few weeks we will work closely with our employees and key contractors to mitigate the impact and manage carefully the staged shutdown of operations.  "We will be offering assistance to employees in seeking further employment opportunities."  However, there is some hope for the mine, with First Quantum saying it would continue to progress the permitting process at the Shoemaker Levy orebody, along with regular review of the market conditions for a potential restart of operations.  To restart operations, should favourable conditions prevail, is estimated at $10 million.  The closure comes just weeks after First Quantum posted back-to-back quarterly losses.  The company reported a $US18 million loss for the June quarter, following a $US29 million loss in the March quarter.The miner also revealed Ravensthorpe - at current metal prices - is making a loss of more than a dollar on every pound of nickel it produces.  Ravensthorpe produced 11,512 tonnes of nickel at an all-in sustaining cost of $US5.70 per pound for the six months to June 30.  Global miner BHP spent about $US3 billion building and commissioning the facility in late 2008, before the global financial crisis forced its closure only months later.  First Quantum bought the mine for $US340 million in 2010 and restarted operations in 2011.  There has long been speculation about the future of Ravensthorpe, one of only two nickel laterite mines operating in WA, alongside Glencore's Murrin Murrin mine near Laverton.  First Quantum produced 23,624 tonnes of nickel last year, most of which came from Ravensthorpe following the $US712 million sale of the Kevitsa mine in Finland.The State Government said it would seek to assist those who will be laid off, with Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston saying he had been directed to launch a taskforce to help find those workers employment elsewhere within the industry.  "The Government will see whether we can work with these displaced employees to see whether they can get positions in expansion projects in the gold and lithium sector," Mr. Johnston said.  He admitted other nickel mines in WA were "under pressure" as a result of tough market conditions but expressed confidence the futures of the largest of those are secure.  Mr. Johnston was hopeful the Ravensthorpe mine would operate again.  "They are hopeful the mine will come back into production within two or three years because they believe the nickel market will come back," he said.  Premier Mark McGowan said he had a "great deal of sympathy" for the impacted workers and said as much support as possible would be offered.

March 12, 2016
- First Quantum Minerals has played down a renewed round of speculation it is preparing to mothball its struggling Ravensthorpe nickel mine, saying it needs to keep it operating to deliver into hedged production.  Ravensthorpe’s 300-strong workforce has been preparing for the worst amid talk First Quantum has quit buying critical raw materials needed to keep Ravensthorpe’s massive processing plant running.  Multiple sources toldWestBusiness last week Ravensthorpe had not taken delivery of its March shipment of sulphur, heightening concern the nickel operation is running down its stockpiles ahead of a potential closure of the operation.  It is understood Ravensthorpe has enough sulphur stockpiled to keep its main high pressure acid leach plant running for at least six weeks, and sources suggest there is enough time for delivery of new supplies if the decision is to continue to operate Ravensthorpe beyond that.  A spokesman for the company said yesterday the deferral of the sulphur delivery was due to a planned maintenance shutdown in April.  “Ravensthorpe has a major shutdown in April as part of our ongoing and long-term maintenance program on the High Pressure Leach circuit, therefore, as we do every year, we manage our working capital efficiently, particularly big cost items like sulphur,” he said.  “The nickel price has improved during March, so we’ve hedged future production, which can only be delivered from Ravensthorpe now that we have announced the sale of our only other nickel producing mine.”Ravensthorpe booked a gross loss of $US51 million in 2015.  First Quantum failed to find a buyer for Ravensthorpe in a recent sale attempt but it announced on Thursday night it had sold the loss-making Kevitsa nickel and copper mine in Finland for $US712 million, well above market expectations.  It is understood First Quantum had tried to bundle the two operations, asking buyers to bid for both.  But lack of buyer interest in Ravensthorpe forced a rethink. Several potential bidders are understood to have expressed an interest in the 28,000 tonne-a-year WA laterite nickel mine but no firm offers were made.

December 15, 2014
- Canada's First Quantum Minerals has shut its 38,000-tonnes-per-year Ravensthorpe nickel plant in Australia following an acid spill, which is under investigation.  The rupture of a one of several tanks containing sulphuric acid used to leach nickel late on Sunday caused an undetermined amount of the hazardous slurry to spill into a contained area of the plant 550 kilometres (340 miles) southeast of Perth in Western Australia state, company spokesman Dave Coggin said.  Coggin could not immediately say if a declaration of force majeure would be invoked protecting First Quantum from interruptions to sales obligations.  "The spill resulting from the failure has been contained within the plant's protective bunded area," Coggin said, adding that there were no reports of injuries, with all staff accounted for. Sulphuric acid for the leaching process is produced on site.  "The plant is currently shut down and on the basis of information received to date, no adverse environmental effects are anticipated," he said.  While all staff have remained on site, no date has been set for a restart, pending the findings of the investigation, according to the spokesman.  First Quantum acquired the Ravensthorpe nickel project from BHP Billiton in 2009 and following extensive rehabilitation restarted the operation in 2011.  This year, the facility was set to meet it full production target of 38,000 tonnes, according to the spokesman.  LME nickel prices were up 0.3 percent on Monday. Any market impact in metals markets from the shutdown is likely to be muted in the short term given a global supply glut of the metal, used mainly in making stainless steel. Near-record inventories of more than 400,000 tonnes are stacked in London Metal Exchange warehouses.  BHP continues to produce nickel at an annual rate of close to 100,000 tonnes at its nearby Nickel West operation. Glencore also operates a nickel-making plant in Western Australia, churning out more than 30,000 tonnes a year.  Raw nickel produced at the Ravensthorpe site is bought primarily by metals refining companies in China and India.

October 7, 2011 - First Quantum Minerals Ltd said nickel production is set to resume by the end of 2011 from Australia's Ravensthorpe mine following a two-year redevelopment program.  Annual average production for the first five years is expected to be 39,000 tonnes, it said on Friday.  At that rate, First Quantum would become Australia's no. 2 producer behind BHP Billiton , which operates mines, a refinery and a smelter in Western Australia state.  Currently, Minara Resources is Australia's second largest nickel producer, targeting production of between 29,000 and 32,000 tonnes in 2011.  "The project is progressing to plan and we plan on producing by the end of the year," First Quantum said in a statement emailed to Reuters.  First Quantum bought the operation from BHP Billiton in February last year for $340 million, a fraction of the $2.2 billion BHP Billiton spent on its initial development.  BHP shut down Ravensthorpe in 2009 after nickel prices dropped to less than half the current price of around $19,170 a tonne ($8.93 per pound) as the global financial crisis crippled commodities demand.  Ravensthorpe was designed by BHP to supply around 55,000 tonnes of nickel annually, or around 3 percent of world capacity, but never came near that rate before closing.

February 10, 2010 - First Quantum Minerals Ltd. announced the finalization of the acquisition of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation in Western Australia following the receipt of the relevant Government approvals. The acquisition will take effect on February 10, 2010.  The Company is planning to spend the next 12 months constructing two crushing plants in the modification of the crushing, conveying, stockpile and reclaim areas of the plant. This is expected to be followed by approximately six months of commissioning and ramp-up. The capital requirement for the modification is estimated at approximately US$150 million, depending on currency exchange rates.

December 9, 2009 - Quantum Minerals will spend about $120-million in capital expenditure (capex) to bring the Ravensthorpe nickel operation in Western Australia back into production and to ramp up the operation’s production.  Chairperson and CEO Philip Pascall said in a conference call that the company had made provision to spend about $140-million on the project, thus allowing it to have $20-million of contingency funding available for the project.  BHP Billiton, which had shut down the Ravensthorpe mine in early January owing to low nickel prices, which it said made the operation unprofitable, on Tuesday announced that it would sell the operation to First Quantum for $340-million.  Ravensthorpe is an open pit mine and hydrometallurgical process plant used to recover nickel and cobalt to produce a mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide intermediate product.
Pascall said that the acquisition reflected First Quantum’s clear strategy of diversifying its commodity profile and its geographical footprint.  It was currently mainly a producer of copper cathode, copper in concentrate, gold and sulphuric acid in a number of African countries.  Pascall noted that when the Australian operation first became available for sale, the company had been wary of the project, given its hasty closure.  However, the mining firm had found that the main plant was in “an excellent condition”, he stated, adding that it had been one of the “best mothballed plants” the company had ever seen.
There were, however, some technical challenges, mainly related to the front end of the plant, which along with the financial challenges faced by BHP, had led to the closure of the operation.  Nevertheless, Pascall was confident that First Quantum had the capability to overcome these technical challenges, saying that some of its other projects in Africa were a lot more complex to develop.  It would make a number of changes to the front end of the plant and some smaller changes in some other areas of the operation.
He also noted that, owing to its size, relative to that of BHP, it did not face all the constraints that the management of the operation previously had.  Pascall said that, for example, the previous management had come up with a number of ideas on how to improve the plant’s performance, but getting the required authority to implement such changes had lengthened the timelines of the project.  Further, Pascall expected to be able to reduce the costs of production by introducing the changes to the plant, which would allow the mine to become more profitable.  He said that First Quantum had put a lot of effort into understanding the nickel market before deciding to buy the Australian operation.
First Quantum would fund the required capex from internal funds, with Pascall pointing out that the company currently had a robust cash flow. It would, however, review the matter again in the next six to 12 months.  The agreement between the two parties was subject to relevant approvals from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board and the West Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum and, subject to these approvals, was expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.  Pascall said that the operation would ramp up to full production in less than 18 months after concluding the acquisition.   First Quantum expected the asset to produce an average of 39 000 t/y for the first five years after operations restart. Overall, production over the expected 32-year mine life is forecast at 28 000 t/y.  The company was currently negotiating with a number of offtakers for the Ravensthorpe output, said Pascall, noting that most of the interest came from China.

January 29, 2009 - BHP Billiton confirmed today it would be repurchasing houses from employees who were original recipients of financial assistance from the company to build or buy a house in the communities of Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe and Esperance.  Since the announcement of the indefinite suspension of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation on 21 January, BHP Billiton has undertaken one-on-one discussions with a number of local businesses to understand the impact of the announcement on them. Starting today, BHP Billiton will be moving to the next phase of offering assistance to these businesses.  We will continue to liaise with employees, Government, local businesses and Chambers of Commerce and Industry as we continue to progress.

January 21, 2009 - BHP Billiton announced that it will immediately commence the safe ramp down and indefinite suspension of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation (Australia).  As a consequence, Yabulu (Australia) will cease processing mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide product from Ravensthorpe and will revert to processing ore only. The Group plans to complete a future options study for Yabulu during the first half of calendar year 2009.  The decisions announced today are largely the result of the diminished prospects for profitability of Ravensthorpe and Yabulu in the current environment, significant and continuing deterioration in the outlook for the nickel market, and the projected level of capital expenditure required in order to achieve and sustain projected production volumes at Ravensthorpe. As a result, the total workforce at these operations and associated Perth-based functional areas will be reduced by approximately 800 employees and 1,000 contractors by June 2009.

MTPD - Metric Tonne per Day           STPD - Short Ton per Day
MTPA - Metric Tonne per Annum      STPA - Short Ton per Annum
SA - Single Absorption
DA - Double Absorption

* Coordinates can be used to locate plant on Google Earth