BHP addresses bacteria growth at Nickel West

BHP Nickel West operation. Image: BHP

BHP has reported an elevated level of aerobic bacteria at its Nickel West operations in Western Australia.

The elevated count pertained to legionella bacteria and was detected in one of the cooling towers at the Kwinana refinery during routine monitoring.

The Australian Department of Health stated that legionella could be found in water, in host organisms such as amoeba or adhering to the surface of pipes or other plumbing infrastructure, with Legionnaires’ disease characterised by pneumonia.

A BHP spokesperson said the bacteria were detected below levels that would trigger notification to the health department.

“BHP takes the health and safety of its people and the community very seriously,” the spokesperson said.

“In line with industry standards, BHP took all appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of all personnel.”

The company stated it had addressed the bacteria growth, and disinfected and barricaded the affected cooling tower.

BHP refines granulated nickel matte from the Nickel West Kalgoorlie smelter into nickel powder and briquettes at the Kwinana refinery.

The company is also building a nickel sulphate plant at the refinery to produce nickel sulphate for use in lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles.

BHP employs over 3500 employees and contractors across its entire Nickel West operations.