Due to the ongoing exploration success at Blackstone Minerals’ (ASX: BSX) flagship Ta Khoa project in Vietnam, the company is looking at “significantly expanded” downstream refining capacity in the current pre-feasibility study.
In a corporate strategy update this morning, Blackstone said the higher downstream refining capacity would be underpinned by third party concentrates along with any further discoveries from Ta Khoa.
The downstream pre-feasibility study is progressing designs and flowsheets for the expanded refinery. Blackstone proposes the refinery would produce a range of nickel-cobalt-manganese precursor products such as NCM811, which it says attracts a “strong premium” to metal prices.
Blackstone expects the expanded downstream refining capacity would position its as a “globally significant class I nickel producer”.
As part of the higher downstream capacity, Blackstone plans to collaborate with tier one partners.
Separate upstream and downstream evaluations
In delivering the updated downstream strategy, Blackstone has elected to separate the pre-feasibility study into two separate studies with one focusing on the proposed downstream potential, and the other study to concentrate on incorporating the multiple massive sulphide vein (MSV) high-grade nickel deposits found across the project into its mine plan.
Upstream work will also evaluate the restart and possible expansion of the existing 450,000 tonne per annum concentrator.
Other upstream work will include drilling out and appropriate mine sequencing of large, disseminated sulphide orebodies at the project including Ban Phuc and Ban Khoa.
This upstream study is due for delivery by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, with the company planning to build as much mining inventory as possible to warrant the re-start of the concentrator.
Meanwhile, the updated downstream pre-feasibility study mentioned above is scheduled for completion by the end of July this year.
Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said the company’s decision to separate the feasibility studies would enable it to “better deploy its resources”.
He said the strategy would also enable it to unlock strategic partnerships, deliver funding solutions, and increase the overall transparency in communicating business progress.
“The updated timing on the downstream pre-feasibility study reflects the company’s ambition to capture as much value in a rapidly growing lithium-ion battery industry,” Mr Williamson explained.
“We believe we are at the forefront of a once in a generation opportunity and the company is positioning by increasing the scale of its downstream refining capacity.”
As part of this, Mr Williamson said the company was “confident” it will attract joint venture partnerships with leading organisations that have a “strong alignment” to Blackstone’s strategy and business model.