The Piauí Nickel Project is a nickel laterite heap leaching project in the North-east of Brazil.
The deposit has been extensively drilled with 73% of the resource classified as Measured and with a combined Measured & Indicated JORC compliant resource of 72 million tonnes at 1.0% nickel & 0.05% cobalt with upside potential in adjacent exploration licences. The deposit is characterised by very favourable geological conditions in that it is rocky in texture to aid heap percolation and has a high silica content which, being unreactive with acid, minimises acid consumption.
The deposit occurs as an isolated hill surrounded by flat land. Mining will thus be a straight-forward open pit extraction process. The Piauí ore has excellent metallurgical properties with heap leaching resulting in fast leach kinetics, high nickel and cobalt extractions and most importantly low acid consumption.
The project is close to road and rail infrastructure which connects the project to a choice of ports. There is a large source of water nearby, for which BRN already has an extraction permit, and the arid climate facilitates both the heap leaching process and access to ample land for the heaps which is flat and currently used only for low productivity animal grazing.
In 2015 BRN completed the refurbishment of the existing demonstration plant and camp facilities. Demonstration heaps commenced in May 2016 with the leach solutions feeding the downstream plant in July. The first nickel and cobalt products were produced in August 2016 and sold later that year. Target extractions of 80% nickel have been exceeded and data has been collected from the demo plant to validate a MetSim dynamic simulation model. The validated Metsim data is subsequently used to simulate the 3 different production scenarios allowing design criteria development for all future engineering work, either for construction of PNP1000 or commencement of the bankable feasibility study for full scale production.
Social and Environmental work continue in order to obtain the main environmental license (LP).