The Simulus Group has started building a $2 million demonstration-size cobalt-nickel-scandium processing plant for Australian Mines, a joint venture partner in the Sconi project 250km west of Townsville.
The Perth-based plant will use a conventional high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) front end to dissolve the metals into solution. Solid-liquid separation, standard solvent extraction (SX) and sulphate crystallisation at the back end will separate out the cobalt, nickel and scandium.
Australian Mines said the plant should be fully operational and processing bulk samples of ore from the Sconi project and Flemington project (in New South Wales) by November this year.
The design of the demonstration-sized HPAL and SX plant makes it readily scaleable to a full-size plant.
Australian Mines said this would allow it to optimise the processing flow chart and metal recoveries prior to construction of the 750,000 tpa plant proposed to be built at Sconi once the company’s Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) has been completed and funding secured.
“With the company’s ongoing engagement with potential cobalt, nickel and scandium customers across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, it became apparent that the quickest path to progressing those negotiations was to go ahead and produce samples to reinforce certainty around expected product quality,” Australian Mines managing director Ben Bell said.
“The reason for constructing the demonstration-size plant in Perth was due to the relevant metallurgical expertise available in Western Australia, including The Simulus Group, some of whose staff were involved in the early operating stage at Glencore’s Murrin Murrin nickel and cobalt operation.
“I am very pleased with the construction and processing proposal put forward by Simulus and I look forward to working with their team to prove-up the Australian Mines cobalt, nickel and scandium product suite.
“In addition to potential off-take customers, Australian Mines welcomes representatives of institutional investors, sovereign funds, brokers and analysts to tour this demonstration plant once construction is completed, to see first-hand the processing of the ore and to handle the actual cobalt sulphate, nickel sulphate and scandium oxide products produced from this operation”.
Australian Mines entered a joint venture agreement with Metallica Minerals in 2016 on the Sconi project, which encompasses five deposits (two scandium-cobalt rich, and three nickel-cobalt).
The total scandium resource at Sconi is 12 million tonnes at 162 ppm scandium for 2,989 tonnes of scandium oxide.
The combined nickel and cobalt mineral resource for the Sconi Project is 89 million tonnes at 0.58 per cent nickel and 0.06 per cent cobalt for 514,000 tonnes of contained nickel metal and 54,000 tonnes of contained cobalt metal.