QUEENSLAND, Australia - GLADSTONE PACIFIC NICKEL of Brisbane has plans to create the world's largest nickel and cobalt refining facility. The feasibility study says the first stage of the project carries a price tag of US$3.4 billion, but it also will be able to produce nickel for a cash cost of US$2.19/lb.
Stage one involves building a plant that has two autoclaves that will produce nickel and copper metal. Laterite ore will be sourced from largely from New Caledonia and other southwest Pacific islands. Gladstone will also treat its own ore from the Marlborough deposits. The plant will produce 63,000 tonnes of nickel per year. It will also produce 6,200 tonnes of cobalt annually. The second stage of the project involves adding another pair of autoclaves at a cost of US$2.8 billion, and will produce 120,000 tonnes of nickel and 10,000 tonnes of cobalt per year.
Gladstone will build what it terms a "fourth generation" high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) plant. It will be fully integrated, with a metals refinery, enhanced saprolite leach circuit, two mining operations with ore beneficiation, and a dedicated acid plant.
The company will also have to establish ore handling facilities in New Caledonia and Gladstone, Queensland.
Historically, capital intensive nickel processing plants have been developed adjacent to a dedicated ore resource; however Gladstone's strategy with this new plant is to exploit ore sources that cannot justify a major capital investment in their own right either due to their size or their location. Australia remains an economic and politically stable environment in which to make an investment of this magnitude, says the company.
Gladstone hopes to commission the plant in 2010. More information is available at www.GladstonePacific.com.