A look at Western Australia
Western Australia is currently the sole producer of nickel in Australia. The state’s nickel resources consist of both sulphide and lateritic deposits, with most production derived from nickel sulphide mines.
The first major nickel sulphide deposit was discovered at Kambalda with other deposits around Mount Keith, Perseverance and Yakabindie. Major lateritic nickel mines include Murrin Murrin and Ravensthorpe.
Potential for further discoveries exists and is highlighted by the recent nickel-cobalt-copper discovery at Nova in the new nickel province of the Albany-Fraser region in southern Western Australia. Nebo-Babel is a significant nickel sulphide deposit in Western Australia’s Musgrave Province.
Historically, WA’s nickel industry has been unique in that many producers are dependant on the continued operations of competitors. For example, Independence Group, Mincor and Panoramic sold ore to Nickel West for processing. In turn, Nickel West relied on those companies to ensure the smelter and refinery has a consistent supply of ore to maintain operations.
In 2016-17, nickel was Western Australia’s fourth most valuable mineral sector, worth $2.3 billion.
Nickel is used on more than 300,000 products including consumer, industrial, military, aerospace and architectural applications with the major use of nickel in the manufacture of stainless steel.
Malaysia, Taiwan and China account for around 62 per cent of WA’s nickel exports.
Australia has the world’s largest nickel reserves with an estimated 19 million tonnes. This represents 24 per cent of the world’s total estimated nickel reserves. Brazil and Russia hold the next largest reserves, with estimates of 10 million (13 per cent) and 7.6 million (10 per cent) tonnes respectively.
More detailed information about the performance of WA’s nickel sector, and other commodities, can be found in the Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Statistics Digest or in the latest resource data files.
Details about nickel mines, deposits, prospects and occurrences can be found in the Geological Survey of WA’s Nickel Commodity Summary.