BHP has announced a new move into next-gen materials. 

BHP Nickel West has secured an agreement to supply nickel products to Elon Musk’s Tesla, but the deal came with targets for reducing emissions in mining and processing.

It is part of a growing trend for electric car makers to value low emissions suppliers, and will see BHP Nickel West build a 40-50 megawatt wind farm close to its nickel mining operations in the northern Goldfields of WA.

It is also commissioning a second wind farm to power its refinery at Kwinana south of Perth.

At the same time, Nickel West will soon start work on tenements picked up from Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel, which exited Australia last year.

A much-hyped nickel sulphate plant attached to the company’s Kwinana refinery is nearing first production.

The sulphate plant has been beset with delays and budget blowouts, but the company says it will soon be ready to churn out 100,000 tonnes a year of nickel sulphate, making it one of the biggest in the world.

The pivot towards newer, cleaner technology has fuelled speculation that BHP is considering a sale of its oil and gas division.

BHP has for the first time commissioned large-scale onsite solar farms and batteries at its global mining operations.

The company has hired firms to build a 27.4 megawatt solar farm at Mt Keith and a 10.7 megawatt solar farm and 10.1 megawatt battery at Leinster, displacing diesel and gas generation. 

It will also buy power from the 100-megawatt Merredin solar farm in WA to supply the Kalgoorlie smelter and lower its emissions.

The company is certainly focused on supplier manufacturers of cars that do not burn fossil fuels. 

“We believe that 2020 was an inflection point with a record 3.2 million (electric) vehicles sold globally,” says BHP’s Eddy Haegel.

“This represents 4.3 per cent of all light duty vehicles, a 44 per cent increase despite the global pandemic. A remarkable result.

“Sales of electric cars more than doubled in Europe, pushing the region past China for the first time.

“The commitment and intention of governments and car manufacturers for the future is evident. Many governments are committing to decarbonise their economies more rapidly and making it very clear that there will be an end-date for combustion engines.”