Canadian nickel explorer FPX Nickel says it has achieved “a significant milestone” in the production of battery-grade nickel sulphate from its Baptiste Nickel Project in central British Columbia.
The company’s Decar Nickel District represents a large-scale greenfield discovery of nickel mineralisation in the form of a naturally occurring nickel-iron alloy called awaruite (Ni3Fe) hosted in an ultramafic/ophiolite complex. FPX’s mineral claims cover an area of 245 km2 west of the Middle River and north of Trembleur Lake, in central British Columbia.
Building on previous leach test work, FPX Nickel undertook a hydrometallurgical test work program to optimise the refinery flowsheet and develop suitable criteria for use in the refinery option which will be presented in the Baptiste PFS. It engaged Sherritt Technologies to conduct this test work based on their previous test work experience with Baptiste material and extensive nickel hydrometallurgical expertise.
Substantial improvements to refinery flowsheet
FPX said yesterday its hydrometallurgical test work program has resulted in substantial improvements to the refinery flowsheet for the processing of Baptiste’s awaruite nickel concentrate, centred in the optimisation of the leaching circuit and the resultant simplification of downstream purification requirements. In addition to demonstrating that awaruite’s unique properties lead to an efficient route for producing battery-grade nickel sulphate, the program successfully produced cobalt and copper by-products, which both represent new potential value sources for Baptiste.
Awaruite mineralisation has been identified in several target areas within the ophiolite complex including the Baptiste Deposit and the Van Target, as confirmed by drilling, petrographic examination, electron probe analyses and outcrop sampling. Since 2010, approximately US $28 million has been spent on the exploration and development of Decar.
Awaruite nickel can produce battery-grade nickel sulphate
FPX said the results of the hydrometallurgical test work program clearly demonstrate the technical advantages of awaruite nickel mineralisation to produce battery-grade nickel sulphate, presenting an opportunity to develop a new vertically integrated nickel supply chain in Canada. In addition to processing advantages, the size of the Baptiste resource can produce up to 43,500 tonnes of nickel contained in nickel sulphate per year, enough to fulfill 17% of the projected North American EV battery demand for nickel in 20301, all without displacing any of North America’s current smelting and primary refining capacity.
These results are currently being incorporated into the preliminary feasibility study, which remains on track for completion in September 2023, when FPX says it will be able to further demonstrate Baptiste’s potential to deliver low-cost, low-carbon nickel units to the EV supply chain over a 30-year mine life.
The program has lead to substantial optimisation of the refinery flowsheet, reducing the number of purification stages, reagent consumption, and equipment sizes, confirming that FPX’s awaruite nickel concentrate has clear advantages over competing intermediate feedstocks for the production of nickel sulphate.
Results demonstrate the ability to produce cobalt and copper by-products, both contributing to the potential for enhanced economics for Baptiste.
Earlier this month FPX presented results from a recently completed metallurgical test work program which confirmed that the Baptiste nickel resource has been comprehensively modelled for magnetic recovery across all mine phases, thereby achieving a high degree of confidence for projected magnetic separation recoveries across the entire mine life.
Source: the armchair trader