New block cave operation starts up at BHP Nickel West

In what BHP says is a major milestone for its Nickel West operations at Leinster, in Western Australia, the B11 block cave is now fully operational following the firing of the last drawbell last month.

The block cave is now one of Nickel West’s most innovative operations and will be a producer of nickel at Leinster for approximately the next seven years.

BHP Northern Operations General Manager, Mike Moscarda, said the project would have a huge impact on production at Leinster.

“This is a first for BHP and was a huge commitment for the business to take on,” Moscarda said. “Now that it’s complete, it will contribute up to 50% of the ore in production at Leinster.”

Block caving allows for safe, low cost continued production and reduces the impact of seismic activity in the workplaces. It removes people from the most hazardous areas of the mine while remotely targeting the ore above.

BHP Manager Mining Leinster, Brendon Shadlow, said the block cave project began as a way to make mining more sustainable at B11, an area known for seismic activity.

“The mine had to close following some major seismic activity in 2013,” Shadlow explained. “With the new block cave, we can safely and efficiently continue mining even in the event of seismic activity.”

The block cave will now be established as a technical centre and the learnings from this project will help shape the future of mining techniques at Nickel West and beyond.

BHP Head of Planning and Technical, Chris Stone, said: “None of this would have been possible without the many highly capable and committed team members who have worked over many years to help deliver the result we have today. Thank you to everyone who has helped bring this project to fruition.

“We are so grateful to the project team, the Leinster crew and all of the contractors who have worked so diligently throughout the life of the project.”

The B11 block cave is planned to recover over 80,000 t of nickel.