FQM has announced a significant reduction in operating activities at its Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation (RNO) in Western Australia (WA).

The company is suspending mining at the Shoemaker Levy ore body and bypassing the high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) circuit.

As a result of the reduced operations, FQM expects to decrease its directly employed workforce at RNO by around 30%, with contractors being redeployed by their respective employers.

FQM’s decision was in response to the downturn in nickel prices and the need to optimise costs as well as to improve the financial viability of RNO.

However, it noted that it will continue to process existing ore stockpiles through the atmospheric leach circuit, which is expected to yield considerable mining and processing cost reductions.

The new operating model is part of a three-year plan, during which RNO will focus on producing nickel concentrate from these stockpiles before resuming mining activities at the Hale Bopp and Halley’s ore bodies.

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By GlobalData

This period aligns with the forecast for weaker nickel prices.

Last year, FQM cited a significant downturn in the nickel price, along with higher operating costs in WA, as the primary reasons for this strategic shift.

Despite these changes, RNO will continue to be a significant exporter of local nickel concentrate, with an anticipated average production of approximately 16,000 contained tonnes per annum over the next three years, stated FQM.

RNO is known for producing an environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused, compliant battery-grade nickel.

This product, which falls in the lowest quartile of CO₂ emissions globally, is considered increasingly vital to industries and consumers in the US and EU as they transition to a decarbonised economy.

RNO general manager Scott Whitehead said: “Transitioning to a new operating model will allow us to continue to produce and export our nickel product, which is a critical mineral and has a lower carbon footprint than other suppliers.

“The operational changes will ensure RNO remains viable longer term and we will retain most of our residential and FIFO [fly in, fly out] workforce, thereby supporting the communities of Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe and providing income for the region and Western Australia.

“It is important we position ourselves to respond in a timely manner to future improvements in the nickel price by being able to reactivate our mining activities at the preferred time.”