OZ Minerals will go ahead with a big copper-nickel mine in Western Australia to support the booming electric vehicle industry after receiving permission from the Indigenous landowners.
The $1.7 billion West Musgrave project, 30km south of Jameson/ Mantamaru, will create 1500 jobs during construction and around 400 during ongoing operations.
Once brought into production in the first half of 2025, the open-pit mine will be one of the world's largest, lowest cost and lowest emission copper-nickel projects, OZ Minerals says.
"Investment approval for West Musgrave unlocks one of the largest undeveloped nickel projects in the world and, with expected lowest quartile costs, it is set to generate ~ $9.8 billion undiscounted cashflow over its 24-year operating life," OZ Minerals chief executive Andrew Cole said in a statement.
The company has all the regulatory approvals required from the WA government and $1.2 billion in bank financing in place, Mr Cole said.
Projects executive Debbie Morrow said the mine is located entirely on the land of the Ngaanyatjarra people, whom she said have been widely consulted on the mine since 2017.
While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-person consultations in 2020 and 2021, OZ Minerals worked with the Ngaanyatjarra Council remotely during that time and extensively on-country in this past April through June, culminating with the signing of a land access agreement on Thursday.
"We thank the Ngaanyatjarra people for sharing their knowledge and helping us design different elements of the project and look forward to continuing to work together into the future," Ms Morrow said.
The mine will use renewable energy sourced from wind and solar and has the potential to transition to an electric haulage fleet at "first engine changeout", OZ Minerals said.
Mr Cole indicated on a conference call that the company couldn't make definitive statements about that until it sees what technology is available at the time.
"Certainly our intent is to remove as much carbon from the asset as we can possibly can, as soon as we can," Mr Cole said.
"Even with our current base case, West Musgrave is still going to be one of the lowest emitters out of all the hardrock nickel mines in the world."
OZ Minerals has pledged to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2038.
In green-lighting the project, OZ Minerals cited forecasts that the world will face a nickel shortage in the next few years during the transition to electric vehicles, whose components rely on far more copper and nickel than conventional vehicles.
Minerals extracted will be hauled by road to a central hub in Leonora, and then transported by rail to the port of Esperance.
The project will operate as a fly-in, fly-out operation, supported by a remote operations centre with hubs in OZ Mineral's Perth and Adelaide office.
OZ Minerals has contracted with a third-party to build a living hub that includes an aerodrome, 350 permanent ensuite rooms, a pool, basketball court, 2km running track, gynamiusm, playing field, music rooms, a library, golf simulators, a yoga/pilates/meditation space, prayer rooms, and a gaming centre.