BHP has expanded on the renewable energy plans for its Tesla-backed Nickel West division, announcing on Tuesday an extension of its power purchase agreement with the Merredin solar farm and potential wind farms across its operations in Western Australia.
Speaking at the Diggers & Dealers mining forum on Tuesday morning, the asset president of Nickel West, Eddy Haegel, outlined a “number of important deals” the miner had done over the last few weeks to boost its sustainability credentials.
This included the plans unveiled last week to build two new solar farms and a battery energy storage system to help power Nickel West operations in WA’s Goldfields region – the first large-scale, onsite solar and battery project BHP has commissioned at any of its global operations.
The Northern Goldfields Solar Project, which it will build in partnership with TransAlta, will include a 27.4MW solar farm at its Mt Keith open pit nickel mine and 10.7MW of solar and a 10.1MW (MWh not yet specified) battery at the Leinster open pit and underground nickel mine.
This week, Huegel revealed that Nickel West had increased its off-take from the 100MW Merredin solar farm from 20% to 50%, which will provide an additional 30MW of solar capacity for the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter and cut the smelter’s scope two emissions by a further 30%.
In addition to this, Huegel said BHP was “actively looking at wind [energy] opportunities,” both to address electricity emissions at the Kwinana nickel refinery in Kalgoorlie, and across a number of locations in the northern Goldfields region, where BHP recently acquired new nickel tenements.
“Our early estimations are that 40-50MW of wind farm would reduce the northern system scope two emissions by further 30%,” he told the forum.
The flurry of renewable energy activity from BHP follows the company’s recent deal with US electric vehicle and energy storage giant, Tesla, to source Australian nickel from its Nickel West operations to meet rising battery material demands.
It’s a huge deal for BHP and puts the company at the forefront of demand for nickel in batteries that is estimated to grow by more than 500 per cent over the coming decade, largely in support of ballooning global electric vehicle demand.
BHP chief commercial officer Vandita Pant said it also gave the miner the opportunity to collaborate with Tesla on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable through a “shared focus” on technology and innovation.
Asked on Tuesday whether the Tesla deal gave BHP any particular sort of advantage in the global battery minerals market, Eddy Huegel’s two word answer was a simple, “well, yes!”
The out-going head of Nickel West – the role is being handed over to Jessica Farrell – also noted that his team had embarked on the electric vehicle journey for its underground operations, with a “world-first trial” of a Toyota battery-electric four-wheel drive at Cliff’s nickel mine.
It has also ordered a Normet Charge wagon, with BEV technology, to be delieverd to Leinster underground later this year, Huegel said.
“To make the forecast increase in demand, and it is substantial demand for sustainable nickel, we have been focused on increasing our resource base, and you can see here the substantial uplift in that mineral resource,” he said.
“Not only have we increased the resource base we have built our confidence at the same time reducing our risk profile for the future.”