First Quantum Minerals owns and operates nickel assets in Australia, Finland and Zambia. The company’s advanced nickel projects, Ravensthorpe and Kevitsa, are scheduled to be in commercial operation in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Together, these projects are expected to produce approximately 49,000 metric tons (mt) of nickel annually, which would place First Quantum among the top 10 nickel producers.
The plant at the Ravensthorpe project, located in Western Australia, is performing well and ramping up as planned toward commercial operations before the end of 2011. First production of nickel contained in mixed hydroxide was achieved October 4, 2011. According to the company, re-constructed plants are consistently achieving design throughputs. Both the Atmospheric Leach and Pressure Acid Leach plants have been successfully brought on line.
The Kevitsa project in Finland is more than 90% complete and on schedule to begin pre-commissioning in December 2011. Commercial operation is expected to start in mid-2012. The company is seeking approvals to increase the initial annual throughput capacity by 50% to 7.5 million mt. An ongoing extensive resource drill program continues to deliver encouraging results.
Eight rigs are now drilling at the Enterprise target site in Zambia to begin a “focused drill program.” To date, 140 holes for 49,750 m have been completed to an average depth of about 350 m, over an area of approximately 2.2- x 1-km. The company says it has encountered strong, thick intercepts of 2% to 3% nickel. In anticipation of the establishment of a substantial nickel resource at Enterprise, the neighboring Sentinel copper concentrator is being designed to incorporate a nickel concentrator facility with a capacity of between 40,000 and 70,000 mt of nickel per year.