Sirius Resources owns the Nova nickel-copper mine. Image courtesy of NordNordWest.
Underground mining at the Nova deposit started in January 2015. Image courtesy of Sirius Resources.
Final pre-mining additional fauna survey being performed at the mine site. Image courtesy of Sirius Resources.

Nova nickel-copper underground mine, located near Balladonia, Western Australia, lies within the Fraser Range joint venture.

Sirius Resources, which previously held a 70% stake in the project, became the sole owner of the Fraser Range joint venture by acquiring the remaining 30% interest from prospector, Mark Creasy, in May 2014.

The deposit was discovered in July 2012 and approved by the Department of Mines and Petroleum in November 2014. It is estimated to have an initial mine life of ten years followed by a two-year development period.

Sirius Resources commenced underground mining at the deposit in January 2015. The mine is expected to yield an average annual production of 26,000t of nickel, 850t of cobalt contained in a nickel concentrate, and 11,500t of copper.

The Nova nickel-copper deposit is located around 40km north of the Eyre Highway and lies in close proximity to the port of Esperance. It is classified as a magmatic nickel-sulphide deposit.

The development hosts hypersthene-augite-garnet-hornblende-labradorite-quartz rocks comprising a potently transformed mafic-ultramafic precursor of peridotitic, noritic and gabbroic composition.

Most of the mineralisation is contained within a breccia of pyrrhotite, pentlandite and chalcopyrite located within extremely transmuted rocks. The sulphide minerals are estimated to produce a high value concentrate while the accompanying silicate minerals are highly tractable to traditional separation techniques.

Nova’s maiden probable ore reserves stand at 13.1 million tonnes (Mt) grading at 2.1% nickel, 0.9% copper and 0.07% cobalt. The mine is estimated to contain 273,000t of nickel, 112,000t of copper and 9,000t of cobalt.

Mining and processing ore at the Nova project

Sub-level open stoping (SLOS) mining with paste fill, along with longhole echelon retreat stoping, will be employed at Nova underground mine. Approximately 83% of the production is estimated to be achieved from the SLOS method and the remaining 17% from the longhole echelon retreat method. The stopes are planned to be backfilled using paste fill generated from the low-sulphur flotation tailings.

“The mine is expected to yield an average annual production of 26,000t of nickel, 850t of cobalt.”

Ore and waste will be hauled in 60t trucks and stockpiled before delivery to the 1.5Mt a year processing plant, which will crush the ore fed by a dedicated front-end loader. The crushed ore will be ground in an open circuit SAG mill followed by a ball mill in closed circuit with hydrocyclones.

The material will then pass through flotation, resulting in the production of separate copper and nickel concentrates. The final tailings will be transported either to the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic-lined tailings storage facility or to the paste plant.

Financing of the Nova nickel-copper project

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), BNP Paribas, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and the Westpac Banking Corporation are collectively providing A$440m (approximately $342m) for the project.

The four banks formed a syndicated facility agreement to finance the project.

Infrastructure and construction works at Nova

Nova major works will include the expansion of the 200-person temporary camp, construction of a 496-person permanent accommodation camp, an aerodrome and its access roads, as well as a processing plant.

“The stopes are planned to be backfilled using paste fill generated from the low-sulphur flotation tailings.”

Power for the mine site will be generated from an onsite 16MW diesel-fired power station provided by a specialist power generation contractor.

A 2km-long sealed airstrip will be constructed for accommodating private jet aircraft such as Fokker F100 and BAE146.

Nova mine will be accessed via a 38km-long sealed road from the Eyre Highway to the site, and an airstrip and the accommodation village.

Contractors involved with the Nova project development

Barminco was awarded a $102m contract to conduct boxcut, portal, decline, underground development and initial mining. The company was also contracted for the construction of a batch plant for the nickel-copper project.

Kerman Contracting was awarded the design and build contract for the accommodation village and the construction camp.

The agreement for the construction of the tailings storage facility was awarded to Watpac Civil & Mining. RJ Vincent was engaged for the construction of the access road and the aerodrome.

Tristar was contracted for the construction of water and wastewater treatment facilities at the site.

NRI Energy Technology