Australia’s New Nickel Mine to Host the World’s Largest Microgrid  

West Musgrave’s large $1.7 billion nickel and copper project is a significant renewable microgrid on earth. Oz, a new mining group, announced this project earlier this month, after which Australia approved it last week. 

Oz Minerals is located near the borders of South Australia and the Northern Territory. Although it aims at 100%, it will start by supplying over 80% of its electrical energy from its proposed microgrid.

‘Investment approval for West Musgrave unlocks one of the largest undeveloped nickel projects in the world and, with expected lowest quartile costs, it is set to generate ~ $9.8 billion undiscounted cash flow over its 24-year operating life,’ OZ Minerals chief executive Andrew Cole said in a statement.

The facility is proposed to feature a combination of 60MW of photovoltaic, 90MW of wind, and a large battery. The company believes this combination will enable it to achieve its 100% renewable goal. The model of the battery is still unknown. However, the dimensions will depend upon several factors, including the work bulk in the mine, the processing plant operators, and estimated solar and wind intensity for several seasons. 

The Oz project, located 30km south of Mantamaru, will create about 400 jobs during operation and 1500 jobs during construction. The company believes it will be one of the world’s largest, lowest emission, and low-cost copper-nickel mines. This move by Oz comes from the recent wave of world electrification. As more companies produce electric automobiles, there will be a higher demand for nickel and copper, which Oz will make carbon-neutral. 

The mine is located on the land of the Ngaanyatjarra people. Thoughts about the mine started in 2017, and the people have been informed since then. 

‘We thank the Ngaanyatjarra people for sharing their knowledge and helping us design different elements of the project. We look forward to continuing to work together into the future,’ Ms. Morrow, Project executive said.

Mr. Cole reemphasized the goal of the mine as having a plan to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2038.

‘Certainly, our intent is to remove as much carbon from the asset as we can possibly can, as soon as we can. Even with our current base case, West Musgrave is still going to be one of the lowest emitters out of all the hard rock nickel mines in the world.’

The world has seen forecasts of a nickel shortage in years when the transition to electric vehicles using more copper and nickel is in full force. 

The mine will run as a fly-in, fly-out operation when completed. OZ Minerals will build a hub that includes 350 permanent ensuite rooms, an airfield, a pool, gaming centers like a basketball court, a gymnasium, a 2km running track, and a playing field. It will also have a library,  music rooms, golf simulators, a yoga/pilates/meditation space, and prayer rooms. The remote operations center hubs in OZ Mineral’s Perth and Adelaide offices will support the mine.

Aside from the government’s approval, Oz has a $1.2 billion fund. Oz Minerals is open to bidders at this stage of construction. The company wishes to settle financial issues related to the suppliers of photovoltaic, wind, battery, and diesel energy. Afterward, they will opt for electricity production long-term.

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