LA Private

Financial pressures lead to closure of Ravensthorpe nickel mine

Growing financial pressures from the loss of its huge Panamanian copper mine have led Canada’s First Quantum Minerals to decide to close its Ravensthorpe nickel mine in southwestern WA.

The closure starts Wednesday, May 1, according to a statement on Monday from the company. Around 330 jobs will be lost due to the closure.

The company halted production at the mine in January, stating at the time that the mine would be idled for at least two years.

The company continues to process stockpiles well into 2025 and then considers resuming mining.

First Quantum explained in the announcement that it had difficulty finding a sustainable financial model for Ravensthorpe to continue in operation. Higher costs and a forecast of low nickel prices (due to cheap, low-quality metal flooding out of Indonesian-Chinese operations) added to the problem.

“Despite our best efforts to maintain operations by transitioning to a new operating strategy that involved ceasing mining activities, processing stockpiles, and altering its approach to production, the site is incurring significant current and projected losses,” First Quantum said in the statement.

The company said the decision to shut down the mine, with the process starting on May 1, was the best strategic move as it leaves the orebody intact for future value.

The miner said major suppliers to the operation have been notified to allow them to prepare for the shutdown of activities at the site.

And while the outlook for nickel is weak, the real story at First Quantum is the loss of more than 350,000 tonnes of metal from the Cobre Panama mine.

National elections in Panama on Sunday are not expected to change the situation, with continuing widespread support to keep the mine closed.

The marginal financial position of the mine didn’t help. BHP closed it because of the struggle to make an adequate return.

Mining was previously suspended in both 2009 and 2017. The closure in 2009 – soon after First Quantum bought the mine from BHP – left some 1,800 people unemployed, while the shutdown in 2017 saw the loss of 450 jobs.

Last year, the mine produced about 30,000 tonnes of nickel in mixed hydroxide precipitate, and around 1,000 tonnes of cobalt.