Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) is publishing separate pre-feasibility studies (PFS) for its upstream and downstream business units – one evaluating a mining operation and the downstream one looking at production of precursor products for Asia’s growing lithium-ion battery industry.
The company operates the Ta Khoa nickel-copper-platinum group metals project in north Vietnam.
Blackstone anticipates it will deliver a separate PFS for its downstream plans by June or July.
This study will cover the company’s strategy for expanding downstream refining capacity “which has the potential to transform Blackstone into a globally significant class one nickel producer”.
Feedstock, namely nickel in concentrate, for the planned expanded refining plant will come from third party miners as well from the company’s own ore bodies at Ta Khao.
‘Transformative’ quarter for Blackstone
In releasing its quarterly report for the three months to 31 March, Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the quarter had been “transformative” for the company as it continued to develop plans for expanded downstream refining.
The downstream products will include nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) precursor materials.
“Blackstone intends to collaborate with tier one partners to unlock the value of its expanded downstream refinery strategy, including EcoPro which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of cathodes and a major shareholder of Blackstone,” Mr Williamson noted.
Meeting demand from growing lithium-ion battery production
Mr Williamson also commented on the formalisation of the company’s relationship with Trafigura, which has been described as one of the largest global commodity traders.
“The ability for our downstream business to access third-party concentrate will be important to meet the burgeoning demand for nickel, driven by the rapid growth in the lithium-ion battery industry,” he said.
The upstream PFS, meanwhile, will address the option to mine several higher grain vein deposits, thus reducing the upfront capital requirements by enabling the company to restart the mothballed Ban Phuc concentrator at Ta Khao, which has the capacity to treat 450,000 tonnes of ore per annum.
By combining the existing minerals at Ban Phuc with the exploration potential at two other areas at Ta Khoa (Ban Chang and King Snake), Blackstone will be able to increase the scale of its downstream business.