March 21, 2019 / 7:42 AM / 3 months ago

Australia's Jervois to choose nickel-cobalt JV partner by end-2019

MELBOURNE, March 21 (Reuters) - Australian developer Jervois Mining said on Thursday it expects to have chosen by year-end a joint venture partner to help develop its nickel-cobalt battery materials project in New South Wales state.

Jervois, whose management is made up of ex-Glencore executives, is developing the Nico Young deposit in southeastern Australia ahead of an expected boom in demand for the metals used in rechargeable batteries.

It is talking with a range of parties for a 20 to 40 percent joint venture arrangement, including miners, battery producers and original equipment makers from China, Japan and Korea, Jervois Chief Executive Bryce Crocker told Reuters.

The miner expects to release a prefeasibility study for the project in the next few months, he said.

“We are pushing hard ... (but) we are not under pressure to do the deal tomorrow,” Crocker told Reuters.

Australia has at least four nickel-cobalt projects in various planning stages as developers ready to supply chemicals to make electric vehicle batteries. BHP Group is transitioning its Nickel West operations to produce nickel sulphate this year.

Australia has the world’s second-largest deposits of cobalt outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where supply has been tainted by small-scale miners.

Amnesty International attacked the electric vehicle (EV) industry on Thursday for selling itself as environmentally friendly while producing many of its batteries using polluting fossil fuels and unethically sourced minerals.

The Nico Young project has been designed as a heap leach project, a cheaper process of extracting nickel than the industry-dominant high pressure acid leach (HPAL) process.

Heap leach crushes ore then leaches out minerals using a series of chemical reactions. HPAL uses high temperature and high pressure in a plant with sulphuric acid to recover metal.

Jervois in January agreed to buy a Canadian cobalt explorer with operations in Uganda.

Crocker and Chairman Peter Johnston both previously worked for global commodity trader and miner Glencore. (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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