Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) has intersected massive sulphide nickel in two maiden drill holes at the Ban Chang prospect, one of several targets at the company’s Ta Khoa nickel-platinum group elements (PGE) project in Vietnam.
The maiden drill holes were 200m apart and along strike within a 1.2km-long massive sulphide target that had been identified by high priority electromagnetic (EM) plates.
Managing director Scott Williamson told Small Caps that many explorers undertaking drilling programs play it safe and step out as little as 25m to avoid missing the mineralisation.
But the EM was working well at Ban Chang. “We were confident we could step out 200m,” he said.
Already 25 massive sulphide targets have been identified at Ta Khoa.
This result provides further confidence and proof of concept that EM will be an important tool to the unlock the “world-class” magmatic nickel sulphide geology throughout the Ta Khoa nickel district.
Meanwhile, drilling continues at the King Cobra discovery zone while a second drill rig will test high priority EM targets at other prospects including King Snake, Ban Khoa, Ban Khang as well as at the present zone of Ban Chang.
Drilling will be winding down at the previously mined Ban Phuc zone. That drilling is expected to support the project’s maiden resource to be released in the third quarter of this year.
Blackstone is also planning to release its scoping study in the September quarter focused on downstream processing to produce nickel sulphate for the lithium-ion battery industry.
Plan to develop a number of separate mines
Mr Williamson said it is exciting to be targeting massive sulphide veins and achieving intersections within a few metres of the modelled EM plates.
“This is a great sign for the future of the Ta Khoa nickel-PGE project,” he added.
“With the advantage of an in-house geophysics team, we are extremely well positioned to unlock this world-class geology and understand the full potential of our flagship asset.”
Blackstone is working numerous sulphide veins. Mr Williamson told Small Caps the plan was to develop a number of small mines (with a two to three-year mine life) to target these narrow veins.
The previous owners of the project mined a vein at Ban Phuc with an average width of 1.3m. For 3.5 years between 2013 and 2016 the then owners produced 975,000 tonnes of high-grade ore at average grades of 2.4% nickel and 1% copper.
Ban Phuc was able operate economically during some of the lowest nickel prices seen in the past decade.
Blackstone now intends to mine the surrounding disseminated nickel zone by an open pit operation.
Korean investment opened up downstream processing option
In April, Blackstone received a $6.8 million injection from South Korea’s largest (and the world’s second largest) nickel-rich cathode materials manufacturer, EcoPro. The two companies have agreed to work together to develop a downstream nickel processing plant in northern Vietnam.
The placement was to allow the Australian company to exercise its option to purchase a 90% interest in the Ta Khoa project, which included the Ban Phuc mine and a modern 450,000t per annum processing plant.
This investment also made possible Blackstone’s move to get involved in downstream processing to supply battery makers.
Blackstone had already begun metallurgical testing with the aim of developing a product suitable for the lithium-ion battery industry.
The existing infrastructure at Ban Phuc includes the 450,000tpa concentrator and a modern mechanised underground mine located in what Blackstone describes as a “premier nickel sulphide district”.