Nov. 22 -- Western Areas, Australia's third-largest nickel producer, said on Friday a new mine had yielded its first nickel ore two months ahead of schedule.
The company now expects to steadily increase output from its Spotted Quoll underground mine over the next few months to replace production from an open pit deposit at the site that is projected to run dry in the first quarter of next year.
A study was underway to evaluate potential to increase the production rate from the new mine by 50 percent to 15,000 tonnes per year of nickel metal from the current target rate of 10,000 tonnes, the company said.
The results of the study would be known next month, it said.
Western Areas in July forecast fiscal 2011/12 nickel production of 25,000-27,000 tonnes.