BHP eyes $3.9bn nickel float – by Barry Fitzgerald (The Australian – February 26, 2013)

BHP Billiton has cranked up the potential for a $US4 billion ($3.89bn) spin-off of its ailing nickel division by making a big high-grade nickel discovery near its Perseverance mine at Leinster, 375km north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

Industry circles have been buzzing about the new find, which BHP has called Venus after the brightest planet visible to the naked eye. It follows last year’s big nickel-copper Nova discovery in WA by Mark Creasy’s Sirius, the brightest star.

BHP yesterday would not be drawn on the scale of the Venus find, saying that the prospect was still in its early stages of delineation and development, so no guidance on reserves could be given.

However, the company also said that at this early stage, Venus had the potential “to reshape the profitably and direction of the Nickel West business”.

“Venus’s key attributes — mainly its high nickel grades and proximity to existing mining infrastructure — give it clear potential to materially increase Nickel West’s mining inventory and reshape the profitably and direction of the Nickel West business,” BHP told The Australian.

The company said Venus was adjacent to the existing Perseverance mine at Leinster and that initial drilling along a 300m strike length had resulted in 20 of 21 holes drilled intersecting high-grade nickel sulphide mineralisation.

“This mineralisation remains open along strike at both ends and at depth and further drilling continues,” BHP said.

Analysts pointed out that without information on the position, width and grade of mineralisation encountered to date, it was impossible to make an estimate of the size of the find.

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