Advanced explorer Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) has received approval to recommence mining activities at its 90%-owned Ta Khoa nickel project in northern Vietnam.
Using a combination of Australian and Vietnamese mining professionals and operators, the company hopes to achieve a number of project milestones including completion of approximately 1,000m of lateral development through the Ban Phuc disseminated orebody to generate nickel ore representative of the life-of-mine plant feed.
It will also recommission the Ban Phuc nickel concentrator to produce two batches of concentrate for use in the Ta Khao refinery piloting program.
The first batch will comprise approximately 10 tonnes of ore grading 8% nickel and will be delivered to ALS Laboratories in Perth for analysis as part of the phase one pilot.
Phase two plant
The second batch will be processed and stored for use in a phase two plant, which will be built next year in Son La province.
Blackstone is in early discussions with EPCM (engineering procurement and construction management) contractors for development of the plant to a 1:25 scale version of a single Ta Khoa refinery train, processing 1t per hour of concentrate.
The plant will be used to generate commercial quantities of nickel-cobalt-manganese material for alignment with customer specifications and to further de-risk the plant.
Ban Phuc processing
Ore produced from the mining program will be processed through the existing 450,000tpa Ban Phuc concentrator.
Blackstone has finalised studies to temporarily de-rate the existing plant’s capacity to suit the requirements of its pilot programs, following a refurbishment over the last six months.
The plant’s crushing circuit was recommissioned this month, and ore commissioning has been planned for the mill and flotation circuit in the new year.
Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the recommencement of mining activity was an important milestone for the company.
“The speed at which [our] approvals were secured is a testament to the expertise and relationships our team has on the ground in Vietnam,” he said.
“The mining program will provide significant quantities of disseminated ore which will be processed at Ban Phuc and subsequent pilot plants … the opportunity to treat this quantity of ore de-risks [our] upstream and downstream business unit development strategies.”