On several occasions in the past five years, BHP has tried to sell its WA-based nickel division, Nickel West.

The ‘for sale’ sign is now officially gone. It’s not at all coincidental that nickel has a new life and major role to play in lithium-ion battery markets.

And to support new business growth, a revitalised Nickel West is now actively developing its exploration capability in the State.

Earlier this year, it quietly picked up a massive amount of ground in the unknown and untouched Madura Province on the Nullarbor Plain, about 500km east of Kalgoorlie.

They call it “Seahorse”. This is why:

Hint: it looks like a seahorse.

It’s strange, because this isn’t a well-known mineral province at all.

The 200,000sqkm semi-arid Nullarbor Plain straddles the Western Australian/South Australian border, and is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock. That’s as interesting as it gets.

But then last month, Nickel West also scored some government cash through the latest round of the WA Exploration Incentive Scheme to drill a mystery nickel target called Hedgehog:

And that’s all we know right now.

A small number of explorers also hold ground in the region, including Chalice Gold Mines (ASX:CHN) and Red Metal (ASX:RDM), as well as private companies like Romardo Nickel, West Resource Ventures, and Acuity Resources.

In January, Red Metal boss Rob Rutherford told Stockhead that the “Nullarbor was an exciting new frontier play that gets my imagination and geological juices flowing”.

The explorer had just signed an $8m Discovery Alliance Agreement with copper producer Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) to fast track exploration in a number of areas, including the Nullarbor.

According to its website, Acuity Resources chose the region as a “priority area” for nickel and IOCG exploration.

Fellow private company Romardo, headed by former BHP execs with a handful of big discoveries under their collective belt (Olympic Dam anyone?), picked up a bundle of tenements in 2018 and 2019.

Is BHP onto something big at Hedgehog? We don’t know yet, because BHP, Red Metals, Romardo, and Chalice were all contacted but no one was available before deadline.

The plot thickens.