IGO and Western Areas considers further consolidation

Talks between Australia’s two largest independent nickel sulfide producers could lead to further consolidation in a sector that is benefitting from renewed project investment in a higher-price environment.

Perth-based IGO, Australia’s largest independent nickel sulfide producer, has said it is in preliminary discussions with Perth-based Western Areas, the second-largest producer, in relation to a change of control proposal and the basis upon which engagement and due diligence could proceed.

The two companies expect to produce 41,000-44,000t of payable nickel in concentrate in the July 2021-June 2022 fiscal year, most of which will be sold to offtake partners such as BHP’s wholly-owned Nickel West, China’s Jinchuan and commodities trader Trafigura.

IGO, which recently entered into a lithium joint venture with China’s Tianqi Lithium, produced 29,002t of nickel in concentrate at its Nova mine in Western Australia in 2020-21 and has issued guidance of 25,000-27,000t for 2021-22. Western Areas produced 16,180t of nickel in concentrate in 202-21 and has issued guidance of 16,000-17,000t for 2021-22.