Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) has begun drilling the Ban Khoa nickel-copper-platinum group element prospect within its Ta Khoa project in Vietnam.
The company’s in-house geophysics crew has firmed up several new targets within Ban Khoa.
Historic drill data at the prospect returned 33.2m at 0.76% nickel from 174.5m, including 15m at 1.03% nickel; 58.3m at 0.52% nickel from 197.6m, including 5.6m at 1.03%; and 14.7m at 0.81% nickel from 114.7m, including 9.4m at 1.02% nickel.
Blackstone noted that the previous owners had not been targeting electromagnetic plates, whereas Blackstone’s target generation will include EM plates to refine its planned drilling program.
To-date, using EM plates to improve target generation in recent drilling has led to exploration success.
Ban Khoa is about 1.5km north of the project’s Ban Phuc deposit which has an indicated resource of 44.3 million tonnes at 0.52% nickel for 229,000t of nickel metal. The deposit also has an inferred resource of 14.3Mt at 0.35% nickel for 50,000t.
At Ban Khoa, Blackstone will be evaluating high priority massive sulphide vein targets within a broader disseminated sulphide zone.
Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the company was “very excited” to begin exploring Ban Khoa.
“Based on geological similarities and historical results, we believe it has the potential to deliver similar results to Ban Phuc.”
“The geology at Ban Khoa is relatively well understood given the historic drilling and we have refined our targets using modern geophysics.”
He added that any exploration success at Ban Khoa could “meaningfully” add to the project’s inventory, extend mine life and improve the economics indicated in the recent scoping study.
Advancing Ta Khoa
At Ta Khoa, Blackstone’s strategy is to develop an integrated mine and downstream processing operation to generate a precursor nickel for Asia’s rapidly growing battery industry.
Last month, Blackstone unveiled a robust scoping study for the project based on Ban Phuc and has already begun pre-feasibility work.
The study predicted gross revenue of US$3.3 billion over the life of the mine which is estimated at 8.5 years.
It expects capital expenditure will amount of US$314 million, with capital payback to occur within 2.5 years.
Annual pre-tax cash flow of US$179 million from production of 12,700t of nickel is anticipated.
Blackstone pointed out numerous upside opportunities exist at the project with 25 prospects to be tested, along with the King Cobra discovery zone, Ban Chang and Ta Cuong prospects.
There is also the potential for by-product credits from other minerals present within the project including copper, gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium.