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BHP Billiton's Ravensthorpe Nickel Project has secured essential indicative funding from the Western Australian government for multi-user community infrastructure in the state's south-west.

The announcement today by the WA Government's Minister for State Development, Mr Clive Brown follows a period of extensive consultation between major stakeholders in the project including federal, state and local governments together with project proponents, BHP Billiton.

BHP Billiton President Nickel Operations Western Australia Ken Hellsten said the announcement was a major boost to the project and the south coast of Western Australia.

"Although it is important to emphasise that this decision by the Western Australian government does not represent a project go-ahead at this stage, it is nevertheless a solid demonstration of support," Mr Hellsten said.

He said an estimated $55 million in new multi-user community infrastructure and community services was needed in the area to assist with the project.

"The provision of community infrastructure for this project requires a three-way contribution by the two governments and BHP Billiton. We have sought assistance through the Federal Government's Strategic Investment Incentive Program (SIIP) as well as the Western Australian Department of Minerals and Petroleum Resources," Mr Hellsten said.

"We are working closely with the Federal Government including Invest Australia to ensure they have all the information required to make a positive decision soon."

The proposed Ravensthorpe Nickel Project is a residential mineral development as opposed to a fly-in fly-out. As such it will result in an estimated doubling of the Ravensthorpe Shire's population in four years following project approval.

The multi-user community infrastructure includes upgrading of roads and new serviced land, health, emergency services, airstrip and education facilities.

The Ravensthorpe Nickel Project comprises the construction of a mine, beneficiation facility, acid pressure leach and hydroxide precipitation plant, together with associated utilities and infrastructure.

As part of the proposed Ravensthorpe and associated Yabulu extension project in Queensland, a nickel/cobalt hydroxide intermediate product from Ravensthorpe will be shipped to the QNI Yabulu Refinery in Townsville for further refining into high value nickel and cobalt products.

As a result, production output at the Yabulu Refinery would be expanded from the current 29,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) nickel, to nearly 70,000 tpa.

Solid progress is being made on an extensive feasibility study for the Ravensthorpe project with 11 laboratories across four states currently undertaking test work for the project.

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