Exploring Southeast Asia’s Premier Nickel-Sulfide District
This Blackstone Minerals profile is part of a paid investor education campaign.*
Blackstone Minerals (ASX:BSX, OTC:BLSTF) is a leading battery and precious metals exploration and development company focused on the flagship Ta Khoa Nickel PGE (copper-cobalt) Sulfide Project, located 160 kilometers west of Hanoi in the Son La Province of Vietnam.
The Ta Khoa district and Ban Phuc mine represents a rare opportunity to invest in a premier, infrastructure advantaged, district scale, nickel PGE (copper-cobalt) sulfide project, with a downstream nickel sulfate value add opportunity, located in an emerging hub for electric vehicle lithium-ion battery manufacturing.
In light of recent Ta Khoa exploration success and driven by the strong indicative demand received for the Company’s planned downstream products, the Company confirms an ongoing Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) which is progressing designs for an expanded refinery to enable the production of a range of Nickel:Cobalt:Manganese (NCM) precursor products.
Additional projects within Blackstone’s high-calibre portfolio of nickel sulfide, copper-gold-cobalt and gold projects in North America and Australia are being advanced for drill testing or joint venture, including the BC project (cobalt-gold) in Canada and the Silver Swan South project (gold-nickel) in Western Australia.
Blackstone Minerals’ Company Highlights
- Ta Khoa has infrastructure advantages via the existing Ban Phuc mine and processing facilities, and access to low-cost, underutilised hydroelectricity and a trained labour force
- A Scoping Study at Ta Khoa completed in 2020:
- Maiden Ban Phuc DSS indicated resource of 44.3Mt @ 0.52% Ni for 229kt Ni and Inferred Mineral Resource of 14.3Mt @ 0.35% Ni for 50kt Ni;
- Annual production of ~12.7ktpa Ni over ~8.5-year project life
- The objective is to produce a high-value nickel sulfate product for the lithium-ion EV battery manufacturing hub being developed in the port city of Hai Phong, where leading manufacturing companies have existing large-scale electronics manufacturing facilities
- With resource estimation currently underway at Ban Chang, King Snake has become the Company’s highest priority MSV exploration target. Multiple drill rigs are currently on site and will continue to test the extent of the mineralisation.
- The company has sufficient cash on hand to undertake the next stage of planned work programs, including the completion of a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), continued metallurgical testing and the commencement of further technical studies.
Blackstone Minerals’ Key Projects
Ta Khoa Project
Blackstone’s 90 percent-owned Ta Khoa Nickel-PGE project is located 160 kilometers west of Hanoi in the Son La Province of Vietnam. It includes an existing modern nickel mine built to Australian Standards, currently under care and maintenance. The Ban Phuc nickel mine successfully operated as a mechanized underground nickel mine from 2013 to 2016.
Previous project owners invested more than US$136 million in capital and generated US$213 million in revenue during a three-and-a-half-year period of falling nickel prices. The project was placed into care and maintenance in mid-2016 during some of the lowest nickel prices in the past ten years.
Existing infrastructure associated with the project includes an internationally-designed 450ktpa processing plant connected to local hydro grid power with a fully-permitted tailings facility and a modern 250-person camp.
Figure1 – Project Location
Since commencing maiden drilling in August 2019, Blackstone has made significant progress at Ta Khoa, drilling over 9,000 meters of diamond core in more than 47 holes into the Ban Phuc DSS deposit and the highly prospective King Cobra discovery zone.
In October 2020, Blackstone Minerals announced the completion of a Scoping Study for the development and restart of the Ta Khoa Nickel-Cu-PGE Project. The Project comprises an open-pit mine at the Ban Phuc Disseminated Sulfide, upstream processing and downstream processing to produce a Precursor product for Asia’s growing Lithium-ion Battery Industry.
The Scoping Study
The Scoping Study was completed during the last quarter of 2020 making it an initial platform to build a mine-to-market nickel business over the coming years.
Blackstone’s Managing Director Scott Williamson commented:
“Whilst we are pleased with the outcomes of this study, we will continue to expand our resource and increase our production potential in this exciting, and yet under-explored region of Vietnam and have commenced work on PFS level studies for the project.”
- Maiden Ban Phuc DSS indicated resource of 44.3Mt @ 0.52% Ni for 229kt Ni and Inferred Mineral Resource of 14.3Mt @ 0.35% Ni for 50kt Ni;
- Annual production of ~12.7ktpa Ni over ~8.5-year project life;
- Gross Revenue of ~US$3.3 billion (US$2.95 billion to US$3.6 billion);
- Economically robust nickel sulfide project to produce downstream nickel: cobalt: manganese (NCM) Precursor products for the Lithium-ion battery industry;
- Blackstone’s downstream NCM Precursor product significantly improves the payability of nickel, from ~70-80% to ~125-135% of LME metal prices;
- Upside opportunities include staged Capex, by-product credits (including copper, gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium), King Cobra Discovery Zone (KCZ), Ban Chang, Ta Cuong and 25 untested massive sulfide vein (MSV) targets.
The King Snake Project
Blackstone continues to intersect Massive Sulfide Vein (MSV) mineralisation at King Snake. MSV has been observed in all drill holes subsequent to the maiden intersections recently announced.
The aggressive drilling at King Snake and sees significant potential for it to be incorporated into ongoing mining and processing studies given the exploration success to date.
Highlights from continued exploration at King Snake include:
- All five additional drill holes at King Snake have intersected MSV mineralisation. KS21-06 intersected 19.55m of continuous mineralisation, including disseminated sulfide (DSS), semi-massive sulfide vein (SMSV) and MSV;
- New intersections together with historic drill results have defined a strike length of 800m. Importantly, the mineralisation is open in multiple directions (refer Figures 2 & 3);
- Blackstone’s drilling at King Snake is focusing on new Electro-magnetic (EM) geophysics targets which extend down plunge to the west of historic drilling. Initial visual results suggest greater thickness of sulfide mineralisation down plunge of historic drilling;
- King Snake has the potential to materially add to the Company’s MSV mining inventory and support the restart of the existing 450ktpa Ban Phuc concentrator.
The Gold Bridge Project
The Gold Bridge Project (367 km² of tenure), formerly the Little Gem Project, is located 180 km north of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The Project was discovered in the 1930s by prospectors identifying a pink cobalt-bloom on weathered mineralisation that led to three adits being developed. A total of 1,268 m of drilling was completed from underground and detailed channel sampling was taken from the adits. Blackstone acquired the Gold Bridge Project in October 2017 and has since completed an extensive maiden exploration program including drilling, geochemical and geophysical surveys, with the initial results indicating the potential for the project to host a world class cobalt belt in British Columbia.
Blackstone completed the 2019 field season with an extensive stream sediment, soil sampling and mapping program. During the 2018 field season Blackstone identified a number of major Copper-Gold-Cobalt targets centred on the Jewel Prospect, located 1.1 km north-northeast of the Little Gem Prospect. The soil anomalies are greater than 1.5 km long and coincide with several significant IP targets, which are indicating a large sulfide bearing body at depth. The copper, gold and cobalt soil anomalies are favourably located within a significant structural setting near the contact between the granodiorite and serpentinite.
The Gold Bridge Project plan showing copper, gold and cobalt soil contours and IP chargeability isosurfaces
Long Section schematic of chargeability isosurfaces and surface rock samples at the Jewel Copper-Gold-Cobalt Prospect.
With the discovery of Cobalt-Gold mineralisation at Erebor during the 2018 field season returning grades up to 2.3 % cobalt, 32 g/t gold, 1.6 % copper, and 1.1 % nickel combined with the multiple large-scale IP anomalies indicating the potential source of the high grade mineralisation at Little Gem, Erebor, Jewel and Roxey, the company continues to unlock the potential for multiple deposits in a region with geology analogous to Bou-Azzer. Regional targets continue to be generated from the data collected through prospecting and stream sediment sampling across the entire 48 strike km of untested geology prospective for further primary cobalt and gold mineralisation. Blackstone is actively seeking joint venture partners for the Gold Bridge Project.
Blackstone Minerals’ Board and Management Team Management
Scott Williamson, Managing Director
Mining Engineer with a Commerce degree from the West Australian School of Mines and Curtin University, over 10 years of experience in technical and corporate roles in the mining and finance sectors.
Hamish Halliday, Non-Executive Chairman
Geologist with over 20 years of corporate and technical experience, founder of Adamus Resources Limited, an A$3M float which became a multi-million-ounce emerging gold producer.
Andrew Radonjic, Technical Director
Mine Geologist and Mineral Economist with over 25 years of experience with a focus on gold and nickel exploration, instrumental in three significant gold discoveries north of Kalgoorlie, Executive Director of Venture Minerals Limited and co-lead the discovery of the Mount Lindsay Tin-Tungsten-Magnetite deposits.
Steve Parsons, Non-Executive Director
Geologist with corporate and technical experience, a proven track record of mineral discoveries, corporate growth, international investor relations and creating shareholder wealth, founding MD of Gryphon Minerals Ltd which became an ASX 200 company with a multi-million-ounce gold discovery in West Africa.
Michael Naylor, Joint Company Secretary
A chartered accountant with over 20 years of experience in corporate advisory and public company management, previously an Executive Director and/or Company Secretary of two highly successful battery metal resource companies located in Australia and Canada. Executive Director and Company Secretary of Bellevue Gold Ltd (ASX:BGL) currently growing a multi-million-ounce gold discovery in WA.
Jamie Byrde – Joint Company Secretary
Chartered Accountant with over 14 years of experience in accounting, company secretarial and corporate advisory roles specializing in Financial Accounting and Reporting and Corporate Governance, currently the Company Secretary for Venture Minerals Limited and Alicanto Minerals Limited.
Dr. Stuart Owen – Exploration Manager
BSc & PhD in Geology with over 20 years of experience in mineral exploration, Senior Geologist in the team that discovered the Paulsens Mine (+1Moz) and as an Exploration Manager at Adamus discovered the Southern Ashanti Gold deposits (+2Moz) and at Venture discovered the Mt Lindsay TinTungsten-Magnetite deposits.
Andrew Strickland – Head of Project Development
Andrew Strickland will lead development of Ta Khoa. He is an experienced Study and Project Manager, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, University of WA MBA graduate, with undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy from Curtin and the West Australian School of Mines.
Previously, Andrew Strickland was Senior Study Manager for GR Engineering Services Limited, where he was responsible for delivering a series of Scoping and Feasibility Studies for Australian and international projects.
Andrew Strickland has a history of developing mining & metals projects across different commodities and jurisdictions as well as a broad understanding and experience in minerals processing, project management and corporate strategy.
Richard Kitchener – General Manager – Operations
As General Manager Operations, Richard Kitchener will lead, plan and execute all operational activity to ensure a smooth transition into production. Richard Kitchener was Mining and Geology Manager at Masan Group’s Nui Phao Mine in Northern Vietnam for the past 10 years, responsible for the development of systems and procedures and negotiation of all contracts during the development and operation of the Nui Phao Mine.
Other previous roles include the position of General Manager Operations at Swan Gold Mining in Australia and General Manager of Operations at Ban Phuc Nickel Mines, Blackstone’s now renamed Ta Khoa Project. Richard Kitchener holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Camborne School of Mines.
Steve Ennor – General Manager – Project Development
Steve Ennor, the General Manager Project Development, will manage the transition of the processing facilities from construction to operational readiness. Steve Ennor is a metallurgist with 30 years of experience in gold and base metals processing, including senior management and operational positions in Australia, Africa and South East Asia.
Steve Ennor commenced as the Ban Phuc Nickel Project Development Manager in 2010 and managed project development, plant design and construction into 2012 before transitioning to Metallurgy Manager.
Steve Ennor holds a Diploma in Metallurgy Engineering and is a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.
Vũ Hồng Cấm Vân – General Manager – Commercial
Vũ Hồng Cấm Vân will act as General Manager Commercial and will be responsible for managing all business and financials, external affairs and communications in Vietnam relating to the Ta Khoa Project in conjunction with the General Manager Operations and General Manager Project Development.
Vũ Hồng Cấm Vân joined Ban Phuc Nickel Mines in 2006 and has successfully performed in several roles transitioning from senior environment officer to HSE & CSR manager and government affairs director.
Vũ Hồng Cấm Vân holds a BSc in Environment Management from the Ha Noi National University and MSc in Climate Change from the Ha Noi National University.
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