The Goongarrie nickel-cobalt project is being developed near Kalgoorlie, Australia. Image courtesy of Ardea Resources.
A total of 5,500t of cobalt sulphate and 41,500t of nickel sulphate are expected to be produced annually at Goongarrie. Image courtesy of Ardea Resources.
Pre-feasibility study of the Goongarrie project forecasts nickel-cobalt recoveries of more than 94%. Image courtesy of Ardea Resources.

The Goongarrie nickel and cobalt project is located 85km from Kalgoorlie, Australia.

Ardea Resources is developing the multi-commodity deposit, which is expected to produce nickel and cobalt for the electric vehicle (EV) and battery storage markets.

The pre-feasibility study of the nickel-cobalt project was completed in March 2018, while a scoping study to expand production capacity to 2.25Mtpa was completed in July 2018. A definitive feasibility study is anticipated to be completed in 2019.

Goongarrie is expected to produce approximately 5,500t of cobalt sulphate and 41,500t of nickel sulphate a year, starting from 2022. It is estimated to have an initial mine life of 25 years.

Goongarrie project location, geology, and mineralisation

The Goongarrie nickel-cobalt project is hosted within the M29/272 mining lease and spread over 142km² within the Kalgoorlie Nickel Project (KNP).

The project encompasses four deposits of laterite mineralisation, namely Goongarrie Hill, Goongarrie South, Big Four, and Scotia Dam.

Nickel and cobalt mineralisation is mostly contained within a series of shallow to flat-lying deposits, with most mineralisation occurring within 50m of the surface. Localised penetrative weathering is identified in deep, V-shaped mineralised zones, which hosts more than 100m-long vertical mineralised intercepts.

Goongarrie hosts high-grade and consistent mineralisation due to intense shear structures associated with the Bardoc Tectonic Zone. A huge amount of cobalt is identified at Goongarrie South, which also hosts nickel and scandium.

Goongarrie nickel-cobalt project reserves

The probable ore reserves at Goongarrie project are estimated to be 40.1Mt grading 0.09% Co and 0.82% Ni.

Ore mining at Goongarrie

Conventional open-pit mining, using truck and excavator fleets, will be applied at the Goongarrie project.

The mine comprises 13 separate open-pits, which will be mined by using a fleet of 120t excavators and 90t rigid trucks.

Ore processing at Goongarrie nickel-cobalt project

Run-of-mine ore will be put through the comminution process followed by leaching in a proven fifth-generation pressure acid leaching (PAL) method, followed by mixed sulphide (MS) precipitation.

“The Goongarrie nickel-cobalt project is hosted within the M29/272 mining lease and spread over 142km² within the Kalgoorlie Nickel Project (KNP).”

Ore processing will be undertaken in four stages, with the first stage involving aqueous pressure leaching of the ore in an acidic sulphate medium. Ore leaching will dissolve the base metals and minimise the dissolution of iron and silica gangue. The resulting discharge will be filtered and the solids dry stacked.

The second stage will involve the removal of primary impurities and recovery of nickel/cobalt sulphide from the filtered solution. Free acid, iron, and aluminium will be removed from the filtered pregnant liquor solution through a two-stage neutralisation process.

The iron-free solution will be exposed to sulphide precipitation to recover a high-grade nickel/cobalt sulphide product. Nickel and cobalt oxidative will be re-leached and secondary impurities removed as part of the third stage.

The nickel and cobalt-rich sulphide intermediate product will be oxidised and re-leached to produce a high-concentration, small-volume metal stream.

The high-purity nickel and cobalt sulphates will be crystallised in the final stage and separated using solvent extraction method. The final sulphate products will be transported through the existing public roads to Port of Esperance for export to customers.

Infrastructure facilities at Goongarrie

The project can be accessed by a sealed road from the Goldfields Highway, which is located approximately 1km from the processing plant.

Raw water for the mining operations is proposed to be collected from the paleochannel bore fields present within the mining site.

Power supply for the mine is provided by the acid plant, which will convert the generated heat. Provisions are also made to acquire additional power from the local power grid running through the mining tenements, with diesel generators as back-up.

Workers will be accommodated at the 500-person temporary construction village, while a 130-person permanent site accommodation village will be constructed south-east of the processing plant.

Contractors involved

Hyland Geological and Mining Consultants updated the nickel and cobalt mineral resource estimates of the Goongarrie project, while Simulus conducted pilot plant trials.

Auralia Mining Consulting defined the JORC 2012-compliant ore reserves for the project, as part of the PFS.

Golder Associates reviewed the environmental constraints and drafted the updated permitting strategy as part of the PFS, which was reviewed by Environmental Consulting Group and Integrate Sustainability.