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:: New Nickel Laterite Processing Method Expected to "Revolutionise" Industry
The company behind a new method of extracting ore from nickel laterite deposits expects the process to revolutionise the nickel industry.
Inventors Direct Nickel believe the method will cut production costs in half. Nickel latertite is used to strengthen metals such as stainless steel and due to it's lower grade, often spread across large areas, is traditionally quite expensive to extract.
Almost three quarters of the world's nickel deposits are nickel sulphide and up to a third of those are based in Australia. Conventional extraction uses Sulphuric acid in the treatment plant, however Direct Nickel's technology uses the lower cost and environmentally friendly Nitric acid instead.
Technical director Graham Brock says it's a breakthrough technology with the treatment plant's expected to cost around half the cost of current HPAL processors and treatment costs would be around $2-3 a pound. "So probably about half or less the capital and about half the operating costs. So we see this very much as a break through technology that will in fact change the way nickel laterites are treated," he says.
But it's not just companies in Australia interested in the technology. China and Indonesia (which is currently the midst of a nickel laterite export ban) are both keen to see the technology in action, with Direct Nickel entering into a joint venture with the Indonesian Government's nickel mining company PT Antam. Mr Brock says the technology has the capacity to become mainstream, though with increased power costs in Australia compared to overseas, it may be slower to start here at home.
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