Exploration firm GME Resources has unveiled results of an engineering scoping study at its NiWest nickel laterite project in Western Australia.

Tenova Bateman Engineers and Mworx completed the study, based on development of a new flow sheet that utilises the combined processing and includes major findings from metallurgical test programmes, previous engineering studies and resource estimates.

The study has confirmed technical and potential economic viability for a combined Heap Leach and Direct Solvent Extraction – Electrowinning development.

Located at Murrin Murrin, the project has an estimated mine life of 20 years and is expected to incorporate a 1.5mt a year combined heap leach plant producing some 14, 000 t/y of nickel cathode and 540 t/y of cobalt production at an operating cost of $5.68/lb.

The project has a mineral resource of some 75.73mt and 29.5mt of mining inventory.

The scoping study prescribed heap leaching combined with direct solvent extraction to produce cathode through electrowinning, which is said to be technologically and economically viable.

GME managing director Jamie Sullivan said characteristics of the NiWest ore and high quality of technical work completed to date provided confidence in the development potential of the NiWest project.

"The relatively simple heap leach processing route identified in the scoping study has been considered and trialled at several other nickel laterite projects including at the adjacent Murrin Murrin nickel refinery which has recently commercialised a heap leaching program on similar ore types," Sullivan added.

"The comparatively low capital cost and capital intensity achieved by heap leaching is particularly pleasing and ranks NiWest as potentially one of the world’s most cost competitive nickel laterite development projects."