Geological Aspects of the Discovery of Important Minerals in Australia - Nickel Sulphide Deposits of Western Australia

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 1
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
The discovery of nickel sulphide deposits at Kambalda in 1966 heralded the development of ò an industry with a capital value of over $1.5 billion producing about 10% of the western world's nickel. ò an unprecedented exploration boom in which over $200 mil- lion was expended in 10 years in the search for nickel deposits. ò a major new class of nickel deposits stimulating exploration for similar deposits overseas. and rapidly propelled a struggling small mining and exploration company to become one of Australia's corporate giants, provid- ing a much-needed stimulus to economic activity in a region suffering from a severe downturn in its principal industry, gold mining. Production of nickel in Western Australia commenced at Kam- balda in 1967 and grew rapidly to a rate of over 30,000 t of con- tained nickel per annum in 1970, 40,000 t in 1973 and 50,000 t in 1975. Early production was aided by a shortage of nickel on the world market due to disruption of supply from the major Canadian producers, resulting in high free market prices for the metal. Since these early years, the industry has experienced a number of cycles of indifferent health due principally to market developments overseas, although the level of production of nickel in Western Australia remained fairly consistent. The two most serious of these, in 1977-8 and 1985-6, forced the closure of a number of mines. Current nickel prices are allowing remaining producers to enjoy a measure of relative prosperity, although there is little general speculation that this will be long-lived. Nickel deposits discovered in the exploration boom were almost exclusively related to ultramafic rocks. Volcanic peridotite (komatiite)-associated deposits, exemplified by the Kambalda ore- bodies, were the targets of initial exploration which was concen- trated on ultramafic sequences near lower stratigraphic contacts with underlying mafic rocks. Subsequently, discoveries made in coarse-grained dunites in interpreted intrusive settings broadened the search parameters.
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