May 14, 2019 / 7:24 AM / 9 days ago

BHP to keep Nickel West operations in Australia amid positive battery outlook

(Reuters) - Global miner BHP Group will keep its Nickel West operations in Australia amid increasing demand for materials used to make batteries, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The company has previously made several attempts to sell its nickel operations in the state of Western Australia, saying as recently as 2017 that it was looking for a buyer.

“Developments such as climate change and dramatic shifts in technology present both challenges and opportunities,” Andrew Mackenzie said in a speech to a mining conference in Barcelona that was broadcast over the Internet.

“Nickel West, which we will now retain in the portfolio, offers high-return potential as a future growth option, linked to the expected growth in battery markets and the relative scarcity of quality nickel sulphide supply,” he said.

Nickel is in increasing demand in new battery technologies that mean cars can travel further on a single charge. Using more nickel also cuts costs by reducing the amount of expensive cobalt, a mainstay of current electric vehicle (EV) battery technology.

Western Australia is rich in nickel sulphides which can be chemically processed into sulphate.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford

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