BHP Billiton will sell its West Australian Ravensthorpe nickel mine for $340m to First Quantum Minerals.

The Vancouver-based African copper producer said it will restart operations at the mine once the sale is complete in the first quarter of 2010 in the hope of cashing in on rising stainless steel prices.

It is estimated that Ravensthorpe could cost $400m to get up and running on top of the purchase price.

BHP closed the mine in 2008 as a result of changes to projected costs required at the mine, and projected production output.