BHP Billiton has agreed to sell its Yabulu nickel refinery in Queensland, Australia, to companies owned by iron ore billionaire professor Clive Palmer.

The refinery has been in trouble since BHP mothballed its Ravensthorpe nickel mine, which supplied the majority of the refinery’s feedstock.

Palmer said he would also consider purchasing BHP’s Leinster and Ravensthorpe nickel mines in Western Australia to support the refinery’s operations, reports.

The details of the sales were not disclosed but Palmer said the purchase price is below the A$2bn replacement cost of the refinery.

BHP Billiton plans to write-down the value of Yabulu by about $500m and write-off $175m in unrecoverable tax benefits.

The sale is expected to be completed by 31 July 2009.