SYDNEY, Oct. 21 -- At least two Chinese groups are interested in buying BHP Billiton's defunct Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Western Australia, which was mothballed this year in a shock move that cost up to 1800 jobs.
Premier Colin Barnett yesterday said the Chinese buyers were interested in restarting the mine, and he warned BHP not to block reasonable offers.
"It needs a buyer and I hope BHP are realistic in terms of their selling price," Mr Barnett said.
"Basically, they walked away from the project. At a fair price someone else should be able to come in and restart it.
"Nickel prices have recovered and both the commonwealth and the state over the years have put significant public dollars into supporting the development of Ravensthorpe."
BHP said yesterday it was still considering whether to divest, close or restart the mine.
A spokesman confirmed a number of parties had expressed interest in acquiring the mine but he would not confirm whether Chinese buyers were among them.
The spokesman said no action would be taken until BHP completed its investigation into the mine's future this year.
In a surprise move, Mr Barnett indicated he would prefer that a company other than BHP take control. He claimed the mine was put under care and maintenance at his insistence so it could be "reopened either by BHP or sold to a new operator".
"I hope that the latter of those is the case," he said.
"There's no doubt that it is a large nickel resource. It's a new plant that's only operated for a very short period of time, and I believe, with a better style of management and more efficient operation, that project should be able to re-start."
Mr Barnett said he was optimistic it would be sold and ultimately reopen.
"I am doing all I can to encourage prospective buyers and also encourage BHP to reach a fair resolution," he said.
(Source: The Australian )