Raise bore machine site and winder house construction. (Photo: Western Areas)

Western Areas Ltd. announced first ore production at the Odysseus project where nickel ore has been intersected at the Odysseus south orebody. Significant progress has also been made with the shaft raise bore, which commenced 630 meters (m) of back reaming in January and has now broken through to the surface.

The first development ore at the Odysseus south orebody marks a significant milestone for the company’s new long-life nickel mine. The ore will be stockpiled during construction of the concentrator complex, which is due to produce first concentrate in the December quarter of 2022. Western Areas is also assessing options for potential ore tolling arrangements in the short term.

The raise-bore back reaming has now worked through 630 m of development at a diameter of 5.7 m, completing leg 1 of the shaft hoisting and intake air system.

“It is an exciting milestone to reach first ore and we now look forward to continuing ore production and construction activities, while also advancing offtake tenders for new nickel sulphide supply into the class 1 nickel market,” Western Areas Managing Director Dan Lougher said. “The raise bore breakthrough is also a key achievement that further derisks project delivery and allows completion of the shaft sub-brace concrete works, as well as remaining surface civil works, associated with the shaft.”

The work was completed without a safety incident.

A shaft laser survey has been completed following the surface breakthrough, indicating that the shaft-barrel vertical alignment is well within the design tolerance of 200 mm. The laser survey will now be followed by a LIDAR survey and camera inspection, which will provide a 3-D profile of the shaft excavation. Civil works can also commence to construct the sub-brace walls, followed by the installation of the services ducts, which will allow chilled air and services to be channeled into the intake shaft.

This work will be completed by backfilling the box-cut to surface level, and the installation of a small, temporary winder and head frame to complete shaft services and ground support installation. In parallel with this work, the pilot hole drilling of leg 2 will commence in the next quarter, which will allow the development of the lower shaft area.

Furthermore, significant work has been completed at the winder house facility, which will allow the winder to be installed early in 2022, after which mechanical, electrical and hydraulic fit out will commence.