CSIRO helped Direct Nickel overcome a technical challenge and set sights on further expansion into the $30 billion per year nickel industry.

The challenge

Improving efficiency in a new process for nickel laterites

Direct Nickel accelerated their business growth through a collaboration with CSIRO that improved a nickel separation process.

Direct Nickel (DNi) has developed a game-changing hydrometallurgy process that could unlock 70 per cent of the world’s nickel supply found in laterites, and secure the company’s global competitive advantage.

Applied to low-grade Australian nickel laterite ore, the DNi process can efficiently produce a leach solution and insoluble residue. However, it required improvements in order to efficiently separate the waste solids from the leach solution containing the valuable nickel.

Our response

Developing the process to full-scale

DNi recruited CSIRO researcher Fiona Benn to identify solutions and technology options that would improve the separation steps in the process. Ms Benn worked closely with DNi for approximately eight months, performing laboratory scale tests using alternative techniques under a range of conditions. DNi has also undertaken full-scale testing of the process at a $5 million pilot plant at our Waterford site in Perth.

The results

An environmentally-friendly process that reduces costs

  • "Initial full-scale testing has provided positive results. If we continue on this path, our processing method will be ready to roll out to industry as early as 2016," said Graham Brock, the project manager at DNi.
  • The environmentally-friendly process significantly reduces capital and operating costs and is set to grow the company significantly.
  • “Separating the solution containing nickel, cobalt, iron and magnesium metals from the waste products is a key step in our process. Ms Benn’s work through the project has given us a clearer picture of the boundaries of our process and a sense of direction for where to take it next... It’s been pivotal to the success of the process going forward,” said Graham Brock, project manager at DNi.

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