First shipment marks progress for Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine restart

Operations begin: The first shipment of sulphur to be delivered to the soon to be opened Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation docked in Esperance this month. Photo: Supplied.
Operations begin: The first shipment of sulphur to be delivered to the soon to be opened Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation docked in Esperance this month. Photo: Supplied.

The first of ongoing shipments of sulphur destined for the First Quantum Minerals Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation arrived at the Esperance Port on January 17, signifying a major step forward for the re-opening of the mine.

A vessel loaded with 32,000 tonnes of sulphur docked at the Esperance Port and was transferred to a secure storage facility by the Southern Ports Authority.

Sulphur is a critical part of the nickel production process and will be transported to Ravensthorpe to be used in operations which are expected to begin by the end of March this year.

The next shipment of sulphur is due to arrive on January 30 and the first nickel concentrate will be exported from Esperance Port in the second quarter of the year.

Ravensthorpe Nickel Operation general manager Anthony Mukutuma said the increased activity would benefit the entire region.

"The shipment is a significant milestone in re-opening preparations, and illustrates how vital Esperance Port is to the economic success of the region," he said.

"We look forward to welcoming sulphur shipments through Esperance Port for several years and working closely with Southern Ports Authority to ensure a smooth and efficient process for our future imports and exports.

"I hope that local communities like Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe, Esperance and Albany are starting to feel the flow-on effects of our rapidly increasing activity at the mine.

"By collaborating with Southern Ports, contractors and local businesses to make our operations cost efficient and commercially resilient, we can continue to create local jobs, hire people from the surrounding communities and attract new families to the area, ultimately benefiting the whole region."

Southern Ports chief executive officer Steve Lewis said the company were pleased to see FQM return to the port and congratulated them on the work that had been done to reopen operations.

It was announced in August 2019 that FQM would resume operations in Ravensthorpe by early 2020.

The mine, 35 kilometres east of Ravensthorpe, was placed on care and maintenance following the suspension of operations in October of 2017. The closure saw almost 500 jobs lost, 25 per cent of which were at the Esperance Port.

Recruitment for the resumed operations is said to be progressing with more than 250 people employed in the past three months and about 100 more roles to be filled.

About 200 more positions are being created by FQM, which is currently delivering a fleet of trucks and other equipment to the site in readiness to re-start mining operations.