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Brazilian Nickel begins production at Piauí  nickel-cobalt laterite project

PNP1000 is the initial, small scale commercial production project at Piauí nickel project. (Image courtesy of Brazilian Nickel.)

Brazilian Nickel PLC has announced that, after an 18 month construction and commissioning period, continuous nickel production has begun from its 100% owned Piauí nickel-cobalt laterite project.

The first nickel hydroxide product was produced from the world’s first stand-alone nickel laterite heap leaching operation, the company said in a media statement. This initial production at PNP1000 will ramp up to produce 1,400 tonnes per annum of nickel in NHP and this is the first step towards higher production rates later.

The Piauí project grabbed headlines in 2020 after attracting a $25 million investment from the US government, through one of the proposed mine’s funding partners — battery metals investment company TechMet.

The $60 billion US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) took the equity stake in TechMet as part of a push by former President Donald Trump to reduce the country’s reliance on supply chains dominated by China. 

Annual production guidance for 2022 is 300 tonnes of nickel and 3 tonnes of cobalt and anticipated annual production guidance from 2023 is 1,400 tonnes of nickel and 35 tonnes of cobalt, Brazilian Nickel said.

The operation will provide 215 jobs which have been filled by the residents of the local communities for over 70% of the positions.

 “The production of nickel and cobalt at PNP1000 is a great achievement for the company,” CEO Mike Oxley said in the statement. “We are particularly proud to be bringing online a new stream of critical metals in this current environment where there is a growing need for a secure supply of nickel and cobalt which is required in green technologies, such as electric vehicles and solar panels.”

“I would like to publicly share my enormous appreciation for the great work carried out by the team. Given the global disruptions of the last couple of years, what they have achieved is stunning and I am immensely proud of them, particularly because so many of the team are from the local project area,” Oxley said.

“Through their hard work and dedication, they have shown how the simplicity of the heap leach processes can lead to rapid commissioning and start-up such that the challenge of supplying ever increasing demand for nickel to global markets can be met.”