The Forrestania Nickel Project is located 400km east of Perth, in Western Australia. Flying Fox is the first mine to be developed at the project, which contains some of the highest grade nickel in the world.
The project also includes Archean Greenstone belts and substantial exploration potential. Western Areas plans to develop five mines at the site, with targeted production of 35,000t per annum of nickel.
Two additional planned underground mines – Cosmic Boy and Diggers South – are wholly owned by Forrestania Nickel Project.
The company upgraded its nickel concentrator in two stages to achieve a target of 750,000t per annum (tpa) ore. The first stage is fully commissioned with an ore capacity of 300,000tpa.
The second stage, commissioned in the second quarter of 2010, treats ore from the Spotted Quoll mine. Major infrastructure such as grid power, roads, water, tailings disposal and an airstrip were completed during the second stage.
Western Areas increased the capacity of the high-quality mineral resources at Forrestania to 159,000t of nickel by March 2009. The Flying Fox mine started production in 2008 and produced 67,072t of ore at an average grade of 4.5% nickel including 2,990t of nickel in concentrate.
A feasibility study for an underground mine at Spotted Quoll was completed by December 2010.
Mine upgrade and extension plans at Western Areas’s project
Flying Fox comprises several mineral zones, extending downwards from T Zero to the recently discovered T7 zone. The discovered minerals extend more than 700m below T1, in a zone up to 600m wide to the limit of drilling.
Drilling resulted in a 50% increase in resources to 159,000t of contained nickel. By December 2009, the decline of Flying Fox mine reached the T5 zone.
Currently located behind the T5 ore body, the main decline reached 942m below the surface.
Mining at the T1 and T4 and zones is in progress as of December 2011. Full scale production will reach 30,000t/y by 2014.
Western Areas began to extend the size and potential of the T6 and T7 zones in 2009. By the end of first quarter of 2010, drilling at the T6 and T7 ore bodies was in progress. Western Areas increased the current resource inventory by 50% to 159,000t of contained nickel by March 2010. Total ore reserves stood at 3.4Mt at an average grade of 4.7% nickel.
Forrestania nickel concentrator
Western Areas opened the Forrestania Nickel Concentrate Plant in March 2009. The nickel concentrator at Cosmic Bay treats high-grade nickel ore from Flying Fox.
The Cosmic Bay concentrator uses conventional flotation technology to process ore into nickel concentrate with an average grade of 14% nickel. The Cosmic Bay mill has been constructed and designed by GR Engineering Services.
A major expansion of the nickel concentrate plant took place in the summer of 2009. This expansion processes additional ore from the Spotted Quoll mine.
In 2007, the mineral resource increased 67% to 2.0Mt at an average grade of 6.2% nickel, containing around 125,460t nickel over 640m depth.
Spotted Quoll includes more than 125,000t of nickel with high-quality mineral resources. Mine production started at the Tim King Pit at Spotted Quoll in the first quarter of 2010. The mine produced 3,652t of nickel in the fourth quarter of 2011.
New agreement with BHP Billiton
Western Areas has entered into an agreement with BHP Billiton for a contract to sell up to 10,000t of concentrated nickel per annum to a total of 75,000t in March 2009. Western Areas produced about 25,000tpa nickel from Flying Fox and Spotted Quoll in 2011. In July 2009, it also signed a two-year sales contract with Jinchuan Group to sell concentrated nickel.
Prospects for further extension at Flying Fox
Underground diamond drilling has increased the possibility of the mineral resources in the upper panel of the Flying Fox T4 deposit. Mining operations commenced at T4 in 2009.
In the upper panel of T4, the revised total mineral resources include 231,400t at an average grade of 5.8% nickel, including 13,490t of nickel.
The underground drilling focus will shift to infilling the lower panel of the T4 deposit down to T5.
With the continuous high-grade nickel mineralisation, the combined T4/T5 deposit will extend to around 450m in vertical extent and 420m in strike length within Western Area’s tenements.
The revised mineral resource in the upper panel of T4 signifies the prospects of major extensions to Flying Fox.
In the first full year of production, Flying Fox produced around 200,000t of ore at an average grade of 4.5% nickel.