Australian mining company Independence Group (IGO) has transported first nickel concentrate from the Nova Project to BHP Nickel West in Kambalda in Western Australia.

IGO managing director and CEO Peter Bradford said: "The first shipment of concentrate is another important milestone for the Nova Project and this took place earlier than contemplated by the feasibility study and in line with the guidance we provided to the market in our ASX release of 26 October 2016.”

IGO also announced that Barminco has completed nearly 9.7km of development underground by last month. Barminco, an underground mining service provider, started developing the Bolliger section of the project in June after a contract with the IGO.

IGO is currently mining from the development and initial stopes in the Upper Nova region.

After completion of development, IGO can start mining from thicker parts of the Nova and Bollinger orebodies, which is expected to commence by the middle of next year.

"After completion of development, IGO can start mining from thicker parts of the Nova and Bollinger orebodies."

IGO claimed that commissioning process is advancing well as the engineering contractor has already completed the performance testing of the site.

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So far, processing performance shows that the processing plant can operate at the nameplate capacity of 1.5Mtpa.

The plant would start performing to its full capacity after the underground development of the mine has been completed.

The company has already achieved design quality specifications of nickel concentrate quality produced from the site. It will now concentrate on adjusting the flotation circuit to achieve design recoveries.

Two three-year offtake agreements are in-place for the nickel concentrate from Nova, each for 50% of production. The first of these is with BHP Nickel West for delivery to Kambalda, and the second with Glencore, to be shipped through the port of Esperance. 

All copper concentrate will be shipped offshore through the port of Esperance under a three-year offtake agreement with Trafigura.

Underground grade control drilling services is conducted by Swick Mining Services, which is experiencing better drilling rates than expected. As a result, it has enabled one of the three underground drill rigs to start resource extension drilling at Conductor Five.

The company now plans to complete drilling and resource estimation at Conductor Five, which is expected to be completed by Q1 of 2017 and perform the first shipment of nickel and copper concentrates by June next year.