QMEB ยป North Qld project will reopen after changing hands for up to $2B
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North Qld project will reopen after changing hands for up to $2B

Queensland Nickel workers
Queensland Nickel workers

A controversial mining operation is expected to resume work under fresh management.

Zero Carbon Investek (ZCI) recently offered between $1 billion and $2B for the Yabulu Nickel Refinery, 25km north of Townsville.

The site, owned by Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel (QN), was placed in care and maintenance after financially collapsing during 2016. More than 800 full-time QN workers lost their jobs. Creditors were widely reported to be owed $200 million and Townsville City Council $2.5M in outstanding rates and water fees at the time of publication.

Swiss-based ZCI promises to restart the refinery in just 18 months, and rehire about 800 employees plus more construction personnel.

The operation will initially produce 53.5 kilotonnes per annum (Ktpa) of nickel and 3.7Ktpa cobalt. Commodities will be sourced from existing waste dams containing more than 300Kt of “readily” extracted and refined product.

“From over 40 years of operation more than 250Kt and 50Kt of nickel and cobalt respectively have been deposited into the tailings storage facility,” ZCI told investors according to News Limited.

“In-situ value of tailings is estimated at US$9.4B (A$13.9B).”

The site’s power plant will also be transitioned from coal to solar, achieving “unparalleled” efficiency of 41 per cent at a “small fraction” of the conversion cost. The 1.5 gigawatt photovoltaic plant will employ more than 50 people and generate surplus grid scale power that can be sold either locally or interstate. A battery storage facility is also proposed. QMEB can reveal this package is worth about US$800M (A$1.1B).

The Imperial College London, University of Cambridge and researchers from other educational institutions have already started developing conversion technology, which is touted to unlock further battery or electric vehicle manufacturing opportunities.

Green Bond Corporation SARL has been appointed to advise ZCI on capital financing stack, sustainable finance, project financing and sustainable bonds. Indian Ocean Capital is advising Palmer.

“I look forward to the Queensland Government and all relevant authorities lending their full support to the new owners. This is a big win for the people of North Queensland, providing jobs and economic benefits,” the mining magnate said in a public statement.

The sale requires Australian Foreign Investment Review Board approval.

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