Australian miner Independence Group is looking into expanding its production from nickel and cobalt concentrate into nickel sulphate. The company is currently carrying out a pre-feasibility study in order to demonstrate the viability of converting the company’s nickel-cobalt concentrate (produced at the Nova operation) into nickel sulphate, a key input for the lithium-ion battery industry. Producing sulphate would allow the company to unlock additional value by delivering higher payabilities than received from concentrate offtake agreements, and by obtaining a premium price for the sulphate compared to the LME price.
Independence Group has developed a new process, for which it has lodged a patent application, to produce nickel sulphate straight from the company’s sulphide concentrate, which enjoys high recovery rates. The company still needs to optimise the study through process flowsheet refinements, minimising waste and maximising by-products, scale and scalability, sensing the nickel sulphate market and the potential for partnering and collaboration.
With the battery sector expected to expand significantly over the next decade, nickel producers are increasingly looking into supplying nickel sulphate, which is needed to produce cathode material. Independence Group’s sulphide concentrate makes it attractive to sulphate producers, but the company’s production process, which it is seeking to demonstrate through the viability of pre-feasibility study, would allow it to produce sulphate using fewer production steps than more conventional production processes. Independence Group is seeking to complete the pre-feasibility study in the December 2019 quarter.
Roskill’s NEW Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report for nickel was published in March 2019 and its NEW report for nickel sulphate will be available later this month (April). Both reports forecast trends in supply, demand and pricing out to 2028.