Perth-based NiCo Resources is positioning itself as a key player amidst the increasing global nickel demand, with a renewed focus on the Wingellina deposit in the Musgrave region. A deposit that, until now, faced decades of stagnation due to resistance from traditional owners and challenging economics.
A Storied History of Wingellina
The Wingellina deposit’s narrative began 65 years ago when the International Nickel Company (now Vale) discovered it during a wave of exploration near the Musgrave Ranges along WA’s eastern border. However, by 1975, the area was declared an Aboriginal reserve land, rendering it unmineable.
Fast-forward to 2001, Acclaim Exploration managed to secure an access agreement with the traditional owners, revitalizing exploration activities in the region. The asset was subsequently acquired by Metals X in 2006. Despite promising initial studies, the global financial crisis, coupled with a dramatic 80% price drop of nickel between 2006 and 2009, put a damper on its progress.
In a strategic move, NiCo Resources acquired the Wingellina project from Metals X in 2021, signaling a new era for this once-shelved resource.
The Outlook from NiCo’s Perspective
Jonathan Shellabear, NiCo’s managing director, holds an optimistic outlook for Wingellina, especially with the shifting global energy landscape. He highlighted the global requirement for more significant supplies of nickel, cobalt, and lithium. “Most industry experts project an additional two million tonnes of nickel supply per annum is needed to meet demand by 2030,” Shellabear stated.
Though much of this supply might emanate from Indonesia, Shellabear remains confident of a potential demand-supply gap, positioning Wingellina favorably.
The deposit boasts an estimated 40-year mine life, capable of delivering 40,000 tonnes of nickel and 3,000 tonnes of cobalt annually. While the anticipated capital cost stands at $2.82 billion, NiCo’s current financial stance, with $7.73 million in cash and term deposits, hints at the need for strategic partnerships.
Major corporations, like BHP, have shown recent investment interest in the region, potentially making them viable partners for NiCo. Shellabear acknowledges this possibility but emphasizes that any decision will prioritize the best interests of NiCo’s shareholders.
As NiCo charts its path with the Wingellina project, the global metals industry will be keenly observing how this historical deposit shapes the future of nickel production.