Following initial high-grade nickel and copper drill results at Ban Chang, Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) has purchased a third rig to accelerate its drilling program at the prospect, which is part of its flagship Ta Khoa nickel-copper and platinum group element project in Vietnam’s north.
All four of the maiden holes at Ban Chang unearthed massive sulphide nickel mineralisation over 1.2km of strike within a 1.2km long massive sulphide target zone.
Last week, Blackstone unveiled assays of 9.8m at 1.45% nickel, 0.9% copper, 0.08% cobalt and 0.7g/t PGE from 57.05m, including 5.7m at 2.07% nickel, 1.08% copper, 0.12% cobalt and 0.95g/t PGE.
That intersection also comprised a 1.85m interval grading 3.59% nickel, 1.18% copper, 0.20% cobalt and 1.97g/t PGE.
Fast-tracking Ta Khoa
Due to the positive results, Blackstone has procured a third diamond drill rig for the project.
According to Blackstone, the rig has an all-in diamond drilling cost of US$50 per metre for the Ta Khoa project, which is 60% lower than average costs in Australia.
Blackstone has planned the new rig will assist with firming up a resource for Ban Chang as well as drilling the 25 other massive sulphide vein targets outside of Ban Chang later in the year.
Currently, the other two rigs are active at Ban Chang East and the King Cobra Discovery Zone at Ban Phuc within the project.
Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the company has made “rapid progress” over the past few months and is “very excited” about Ban Chang’s potential.
“Our latest assays have confirmed a new zone of high-grade mineralisation, which was previously untested at Ban Chang East.”
“As we work towards completing our scoping study this quarter, we have now purchased an additional diamond drill rig to ensure we can progress the project as rapidly as possible as we systematically test our 25 massive sulphide targets,” Mr Williamson added.
Ta Khoa hosts the Ban Phuc deposit which was mined between 2013 and 2016 and produced 20,700t of nickel, 10,100t of copper and 670,000t of cobalt.
The project has a 450,000tpa processing plant on care and maintenance, which it is looking to re-start.
To further add value to the project, Blackstone is undertaking a scoping study into downstream processing its nickel concentrate into nickel sulphate for the lithium-ion battery industry.
As part of this, South Korea’s largest cathode materials manufacturer EcoPro carved itself a $6.8 million investment in Blackstone and agreed to collaborate on exploring the viability of developing the downstream nickel processing plant for the project.