360 kilometres south-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, on the edge of the Nullarbor, lies the key to powering up our future. It’s a $456 million nickel-copper mine, and new demand for this metal is driving new innovation and prosperity in WA. And just outside Perth in Kwinana, Nickel West has started work to build a nickel sulphate plant as part its transformation into a key player in the global supply chain for EV batteries.
Nickel all around us
You might not realise it, but nickel plays a major part in our everyday lives. Take a look around you. Nickel is in your mobile phone, in the coins in your wallet, and in the batteries in your wireless speaker.
What’s the appeal of nickel? Unlike most metals, nickel offers toughness, strength at high and low temperatures, high resistance to corrosion, and magnetic and electronic properties. And that makes it a truly exceptional material.
The power of collaboration
More than 80% of nickel is used to make alloys because nickel adds toughness, strength, rust resistance and other properties. To date, over 3000 nickel alloys have been created – and up to 70% of global nickel supplies were used in the manufacturing of stainless steel.
These alloys are used in buildings, transport, the chemical industry, cars, household products, propeller shafts, scientific and medical equipment, pipelines and aircraft engines.
Over the next five to eight years, the need for nickel will be greater than ever before. This is because battery makers will require more nickel to create more rechargeable battery systems, such as Li-ion batteries, for electronics, power tools, emergency power supply, home storage units and especially high-performance battery packs for EVs (or electric vehicles).
Now, more than 50 years after the country’s first great nickel boom, Australia’s nickel miners are looking to the emerging EV market to drive future demand for the commodity. It’s predicted that the electric car industry will create the greatest prospects, as it is forecast that nickel used in battery systems will quadruple by 2025 as it will be needed to power every one of these new machines.