Mining and metals major BHP has reportedly received an approval from the Western Australian government for the development of its Venus nickel mine near Leinster.

Production from the Venus deposit is expected to be fed into BHP’s Nickel West battery chemicals business, reported Reuters.

The Venus deposit, which was discovered more than six years ago, represents one of the most significant development options for Nickel West as BHP aims to commence production of nickel sulphate next year to cater to the growing demand for electric vehicle batteries.

A BHP spokesperson was quoted by the news agency as saying: “This completes all necessary approvals required for the Venus deposit, and our team … has started developing access drives to the site.

“Continued drilling over the coming months will better define the resource. We expect first stoping production early next year.”

Venus is estimated to have more than 200,000t of nickel reserves and will provide raw material to the Leinster nickel operation mill and concentrator in Perth over the next eight years.

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BHP aims to commence production from the nickel sulphate plant from April next year.

“This completes all necessary approvals required for the Venus deposit.”

The plant is expected to have a production capacity of 100,000t of nickel sulphate, with around 22,000t of nickel. There is also potential for doubling the capacity through expansion.

The Venus deposit development is anticipated to generate 150 jobs during the construction phase and around 200 following the commencement of operations.

Earlier this week, Brazilian mining giant Vale announced a $500m investment plan to improve its struggling New Caledonia nickel mine.