Blackstone Minerals’ (ASX: BSX) in-house geophysics crew has generated a new “high priority” nickel-copper-platinum group elements (PGE) target at the King Snake prospect, part of the explorer’s Ta Khoa nickel sulphide project in Vietnam.
King Snake is located 1.5km northeast of the mothballed processing plant at Ta Khoa.
Blackstone is working numerous sulphide veins and plans to develop a number of small mines (with a two to three-year mine life) to target these narrow veins.
At the Ban Phuc site – the only planned open pit operation – the existing infrastructure includes the 450,000 tonnes-per-annum concentrator and a modern mechanised underground mine left by the former operator, which mothballed the project due to low nickel prices.
Blackstone said the King Snake prospect’s geology is similar to that at Ban Phuc, where the previous operator mined 975,000t of high-grade ore at average grades of 2.4% nickel and 1% copper between 2013 and 2016, producing 20,700t of nickel, 10,100t of copper and 670t of cobalt.
Best target to date at King Snake
Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the new King Snake target is located down plunge from historic nickel-copper-PGE intercepts and will be drill tested over coming weeks.
“Blackstone’s in-house geophysics team has generated our best target to date at King Snake,” he added.
Previous drilling at King Snake was conducted without targeting electromagnetic (EM) plates but returned encouraging assays including 3.04m at 2.03% nickel, 0.69% copper, 0.07% cobalt and 1.45 grams per tonne PGE.
Now Blackstone’s geophysics crew will use EM to refine the targets at King Snake for “high impact” drilling over coming months.
The company has recently purchased a ninth drilling rig.
It will follow the geophysics crew throughout the Ta Khoa nickel sulphide district, testing EM data generated from the company’s 25 massive sulphide targets.
Drilling continues at other prospects
Meanwhile, drilling continues at the King Cobra discovery zone, and at the Ban Chang, Ta Cuong and Ban Khoa prospects.
Blackstone’s recently announced scoping study highlighted an “economically robust nickel sulphide project” to produce downstream nickel-cobalt-manganese precursor projects for the lithium-ion battery industry.
The study indicated annual production of 12,700t of nickel over an 8.5-year mine life, with a capital payback period of 2.5 years.
Mr Williamson said the company will continue to target high-grade ore in order to better utilise the 450,000tpa concentrator in the early years of mining.