LONDON, July 14 -- First Quantum Minerals Ltd., the Canadian mining company that bought BHP Billiton Ltd.'s failed West Australian nickel mine, is hiring 600 workers and plans to restart the operation ahead of schedule.
BHP sold the $2.2 billion Ravensthorpe mine in December for $340 million. Plunging nickel prices forced BHP to close the mine eight months after commissioning.
"We hope to have completion of rebuilding work by the end of March next year" and production will start immediately afterward, First Quantum President Clive Newall said today by telephone. In December, the Vancouver-based company said it planned to resume operations at the mine within 18 months.
"This is a great boost for the community as a whole," Pascoe Durtanovich, chief executive officer of Ravensthorpe shire council, said by phone. "A lot of the workers won't come from the local community itself because they're working in other mines, although there will be some."
First Quantum is looking to fill a range of positions including plant managers, geologists and mine supervisors, Durtanovich said. The company placed advertisements in the West Australian and the Sunday Times, a local newspaper.
First Quantum plans to operate the mine with as many as 700 workers, Newall said, adding that there are currently about 100 people on site. The project will reach annual capacity of 39,000 tons of nickel and 1,000 tons of cobalt six months after starting production, he said. Output next year will be about 10,000 tons.
BHP Books Charge
BHP, based in Melbourne, booked a one-time charge of $3.6 billion in the 12 months through June 2009 for closing the mine. The company in November 2008 cited changes to the planned ramp- up rate, projected capital costs and a drop in prices for the charges.
First Quantum is spending $150 million on modifications to the facility, Newall said. It's replacing components that weren't "appropriate" and is "confident the modifications we're making to the plant will be successful," he said. "The process problems experienced by BHP are areas in which we have particular expertise."