Hunters Road project strategic for BNC

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— Company sees surge in nickel prices
 — Electric cars to boost battery metals demand
Bindura Nickel Corporation says the Hunters Road project in Gweru “remains strategic” to its long-term plans with the company likely to benefit from an anticipated price surge of the commodity to be spurred by huge demand of lithium batteries for electric cars. Battery makers are increasingly turning to nickel to power growing global electric cars.

Lithium batteries containing nickel, which helps keep a charge over longer distances, are being installed in electric cars from Tesla’s top-of-the-line Model X to General Motors Co modestly-priced Chevy Bolt, according to international media reports. And the battery boom promises a new and growing market for miners producing high-grade nickel. Some of the biggest producers of the higher-grade ores, including BHP Norilsk Nickel, Vale and Sumitomo Corp, are reported to be moving quickly to take advantage and seal long-term supply deals with battery producers, Reuters reported recently.

It said smaller producers with ores suitable for batteries, such as Australia’s Independence Group and Western Areas are already building factories to convert the metal into a powder-like sulfate that is particularly suited for use in the batteries. BNC managing director Batirai Manhando said nickel prices were likely to go up as a result of the huge demand from battery manufacturers and the company stood to benefit.

“At the moment, we do not have the resources to develop the mine but we are hoping that the increasing production of electric cars, which uses batteries containing cobalt and lithium will trigger a surge in nickel price,” he told Business Weekly.

“The project remains very strategic to our long-term plans. It is supposed to complement Trojan and eventually replace it when we finally exhaust the resource.”

The initial budget for the project was $200 million, but would be reviewed, said Manhando. Hunter’s Road is at the pre-development stage and when operational can be mined as open pit. Rail and road transport options are available. Strategic options are being considered, but essentially the project remains on hold pending funding options.

Nickel prices recently hit a two-year high amid forecasts from banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Bank of America Corp that an electric-vehicle boom will boost demand for battery metals in the next decade. Glencore also expects a strong lift in nickel consumption from electric cars, but not materially until 2020, reports say, adding, once that happens, miners will struggle to keep up with faster usage.

Nickel climbed 16 percent this year and touched a two-year high of $13 030 a tonne on November 1. Still, prices retreated 10 percent since then on speculation metals had rallied too fast and on renewed concerns about more low-cost nickel supply from Indonesia. — Business Writer/Wires.

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