BHP Billiton is boosting sales of the top-quality nickel used in electric-vehicle (EV) batteries as the world’s biggest miner targets more opportunities in the booming sector. Sales of refined nickel, a category that includes premium products used for battery production, were 18% higher in the September quarter than in the previous matching quarter, according to a statement on Wednesday. The company has begun offering more detailed data on nickel and cobalt production amid investor interest in its exposure to the rise of EVs. BHP’s Nickel West operation in Western Australia aims to sell 90% of output to the battery sector by the end of 2019, switching away from a traditional customer base in the stainless-steel market. Laboratory tests are being used to develop methods to produce cobalt sulphate, another key material for rechargeable batteries.

The nickel sector was becoming a two-tiered market, with a weaker outlook for materials bound for the stainless steel industry and rob...

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