Pure Minerals’ (ASX: PM1) future subsidiary Queensland Pacific Metals has confirmed that Direct Nickel Projects’ proprietary technology is “ideally suited” to processing New Caledonian nickel and cobalt ore.
Initial laboratory tests were carried out using Direct Nickel’s DNi process on an ore sample from New Caledonia, which is representative of the ore Queensland Pacific plans to treat.
Core Metallurgy Pty Ltd assessed the leach characteristics of the ore samples and conducted nitric acid leach tests on the ore to evaluate extraction of nickel, cobalt and other valuable co-products including iron, magnesium, aluminium and scandium.
In addition to the extraction levels, the time taken to generate the metals was also investigated.
According to Pure Minerals, test work results “exceeded expectations” with nickel and cobalt generation greater than 95% in under four hours.
Overall, test work using Direct Nickel’s process produced 98% nickel, 98.1% cobalt, 95.4% aluminium, 96.1% iron, 95.3% magnesium and 97.3% scandium.
This was extracted from the samples which graded 1.70% nickel, 0.15% cobalt, 1.37% aluminium, 35.55% iron, 6.14% magnesium and 40 parts per million scandium.
“The kinetic leach tests completed by Core Metallurgical are very encouraging,” Direct Nickel chief technologist Dr Fiona McCarthy said.
“Extraction levels are at the high end of the range of leach tests we have completed on laterites from around the world and the leach times also appear particularly short,” Dr McCarthy added.
To de-risk the process further, Queensland Pacific will replicate all the steps in the Direct Nickel process via an extensive laboratory program.
A continuous pilot plant trial will then be carried out at the CSIRO Minerals’ facility in Western Australia.
Moving to cobalt and nickel production
It’s been a busy fortnight for Pure Minerals after it reported it intended to acquire 100% of Queensland Pacific mid-month.
The news was followed by the announcement Queensland Pacific had secured an agreement to use Direct Nickel’s technology which uses nitric acid to digest minerals found in laterite ore at atmospheric pressure.
Currently, nickel and cobalt laterite processing involves high pressure acid leaching, but this method requires a large capital outlay and is costly to operate, while also producing large amounts of waste.
According to Pure Minerals, Direct Nickel’s technology requires less capital outlay, as well as attracting lower operating costs and generating less waste.
Queensland Pacific has locked-in contracts to import and treat 600,000 tonnes per annum of New Caledonian nickel and cobalt laterite ore.
The company plans to process the ore at a plant in Townsville using Direct Nickel’s technology.
Under the collaboration with Direct Nickel, the duo will work together on feasibility studies to deliver Queensland Pacific’s proposed plant.
However, the final commercial terms are yet to be cemented in a definitive contract.