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MEI Online: Hydrometallurgy: Latest News: June 22nd 2005


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:: Leach Recovery of Nickel Passes 50% Continued Heap Percolation over 7 Months

European Nickel PLC, the British company developing an innovative process for the production of nickel from oxide ores, reports that recovery from the trial heaps at its pilot plant in Turkey now exceeds 50% of nickel into solution.

The pilot plant at the Company’s trial heap leach site at Çaldağ, near Izmir in western Turkey, is in full operation, producing about two tonnes per week of nickel/cobalt hydroxide, with a +30% metal content, as an intermediate product which can be shipped to refineries in Australia, Europe and China for the final downstream processing of nickel and cobalt metal.

After seven months of operations ENickel calculates that it has successfully leached more than 50 percent of the contained nickel and cobalt metal which is now held in free metal in the heap or in solution in the pregnant liquor now being fed to the pilot plant. This is faster than predicted by laboratory tests and has been achieved through a particularly wet Turkish winter demonstrating the permeability of the Balkan rock laterites in a heap leach process. The final leach recoveries are expected to be confirmed by the end of Q3.

BHP Billiton currently has a 3.5% equity interest in ENickel under a share and purchase agreement which can increase to 8.9% following the exercise of a second option to acquire another 5.8 million shares for an outlay of $4.3 million. The companies are working together on the development of the nickel laterite heap leaching process under a technology development agreement.

Simon Purkiss, managing director, said today: "We are very pleased at the high rate of recovery we have been able to achieve over this first seven months. The percolation through the heap continues to be good and demonstrates the practicality of this heap leach process. It will take another 3 to 4 months to confirm the final level of nickel extraction but I believe we have now proved beyond doubt that heap leaching of this type of ore is possible. This level of recovery has been achieved earlier than we had originally envisaged, demonstrating superior leach dynamics."




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