Pure Minerals (ASX: PM1) announced its future subsidiary Queensland Pacific Metals has successfully generated nickel and cobalt sulphate samples for the rapidly growing lithium-ion battery market.
The proprietary Direct Nickel process was first used on ore to create a nickel and cobalt mixed hydroxide precipitate.
Then, CSIRO’s proposed flowsheet was followed to produce the nickel and cobalt sulphate.
According to Pure Minerals, this achieved confirms CSIRO’s flowsheet can generate the battery-grade material.
Earlier this month, Pure Minerals reported the CSIRO had been engaged to unlock the most prospective processing route for upgrading the hydroxide precipitate material.
“The success of this work program conducted by CSIRO means that Queensland Pacific now has a complete processing flowsheet to take high-grade nickel-cobalt ore from New Caledonia and produce battery grade nickel and cobalt sulphate products,” Queensland Pacific director John Downie said.
“These higher value products are key materials for the lithium-ion battery industry.”
“Importantly, the testwork has confirmed the Direct Nickel process and the CSIRO processing flowsheet are compatible and can be combined into a single flowsheet,” Mr Downie noted.
The CSIRO used several steps to generate the nickel and cobalt sulphate material, which also produced potential manganese dioxide, which is a potential co-product of the New Caledonian ore Queensland Pacific plans to use.
This is good news for the company, with the world’s biggest chemical manufacturer BASF reportedly planning to manufacture lithium-ion battery nickel, cobalt and manganese cathodes with 70% manganese.
Queensland Pacific’s strategy
Queensland Pacific has secured five-year ore supply agreements with two New Caledonian-based nickel and cobalt laterite producers.
Under the agreement, Queensland Pacific will purchase around 600,000 tonnes per annum of the ore which will have minimum grades of 1.4% nickel and 0.15% cobalt.
Queensland Pacific will then treat the ore at its proposed processing plant in Townsville, Queensland.
As part of its plans to treat the ore, Queensland Pacific has secured the rights to use the Direct Nickel process, which generates the intermediary nickel and cobalt mixed hydroxide precipitate.
That material will then undergo further treatment using a CSIRO flowsheet to produce the final cobalt and nickel sulphate material for the battery sector.
“This initial effort has confirmed the potential of the current flowsheet to generate nickel and cobalt sulphate products,” CSIRO minerals group leader hydrometallurgy Dr Keith Barnard said.
“The battery metals market is charging ahead, and Queensland Pacific is working with the CSIRO to secure its advantage through process innovation,” Dr Barnard added.
In mid-October, Pure Minerals announced it had agreed to acquire 100% of Queensland Pacific.
Pure Minerals is currently undertaking technical due diligence on Queensland Pacific and is expected to make a binding decision on the acquisition before the end of January next year, with shareholder and regulatory approvals scheduled to be locked-in by 7 March 2019.
In a statement released earlier this week, Pure Minerals said it was “particularly pleased” with Queensland Pacific’s success in securing the agreement to use Direct Nickel’s process and engaging CSIRO to determine the best flowsheet for producing battery grade nickel and cobalt sulphate.
Meanwhile, Queensland Pacific and CSIRO plan to continue refining and optimising the flowsheet.
Queensland Pacific will also begin a scoping study to assess whether it is commercially viable to produce battery grade nickel and cobalt sulphate from New Caledonian ore.