A new lease of life for Ban Phuc mine

14:16 | 15/05/2019
Australian-listed Blackstone Minerals Ltd. has burst back into life by securing an option to acquire 90 per cent of the prospective Ban Phuc nickel project in Vietnam, including the mothballed Ban Phuc underground nickel mine, paving the way to reset the clock at the project, with the outlook for nickel in the battery metals sector looking very rosy indeed.
a new lease of life for ban phuc mine
Blackstone Minerals will breathe new life into the Ban Phuc nickel project Photo: Le Toan

Blackstone Minerals announced at the Australian Securities Exchange that it has entered into a binding term sheet for the exclusive option to acquire a 90 per cent interest in the nickel project. This includes the Ban Phuc nickel mine that was invested by Ban Phuc Nickel Mines LLC (BPNM), a subsidiary of Canada-based Asian Mineral Resources Ltd.

Under the deal, Blackstone Minerals has entered into a 12-month option period to purchase Canadian-listed AMR Nickel Limited’s 90 per cent interest in Ban Phuc based on a cash and scrip deal worth about AUD1.6 million ($1.12 million), with the opportunity to extend by 12 months based on a further minimum exploration spending of AUD1 million ($697,600).

According to the company management, the acquisition will enhance the company’s existing battery mineral asset base, which already includes cobalt and nickel projects in Canada and the Silver Swan South nickel project in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.

Exploitation and processing were suspended at the Ban Phuc Nickel field from September 2016 because BPNM claimed the revenue generated by the project was not enough to offset its operating costs.

Blackstone Minerals noted in its report that previous project owners invested more than $136 million in capital and generated $213 million in revenue during a 3.5-year period of falling nickel prices.

Blackstone Minerals’ managing director Scott Williamson commented, “This is an exciting opportunity for Blackstone Minerals to acquire a 90 per cent interest in a project that has a history of profitable nickel production even during low nickel prices. Blackstone Minerals will be the first company to explore Ta Khoa for both massive sulfide vein (MSV) and disseminated sulfide (DSS) nickel sulfide deposits, all the while investigating downstream processing opportunities to meet the demand of the growing Asian lithium ion battery sector.”

In its strategy, Blackstone Minerals said that previous project owners focused mining and exploration efforts primarily on the MSV at Ban Phuc, while Blackstone Minerals will now look to explore both MSV and DSS targets throughout the entire Ta Khoa project.

Blackstone Minerals will conduct further geophysical research on the MSV and DSS deposits and follow up with significant drilling campaigns. It will aim to deliver a maiden resource on the DSS at Ban Phuc over the coming months, and investigate the potential to restart the Ban Phuc concentrator through focused exploration on both MSV and DSS deposits.

Blackstone Minerals will commence metallurgical testing on the Ban Phuc DSS orebody with an aim to develop a flow sheet for a product suitable for the lithium-ion battery industry.

“Blackstone Minerals believes Vietnam is an ideal location to establish downstream processing infrastructure to deliver nickel and cobalt sulphide feed into Asia’s growing lithium-ion battery industry,” noted Blackstone Minerals in its report.

By Phuong Thu

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