Perth-based Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX) has announced it will work in partnership with Korea’s largest electric vehicle battery cathode manufacturer on the development of a downstream processing facility for its flagship Ta Khoa nickel project in north Vietnam.
The company has signed an alliance agreement with Ecopro BM Co Limited with the intention of developing suitable nickel, cobalt or other battery mineral products for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, thereby commercialising the project.
Blackstone has commenced a scoping study on the proposed facility with a view to formalising future agreements with potential joint venture partners for Ta Khoa.
Managing director Scott Williamson said the agreement with Ecopro is a good fit with current market conditions.
“Ta Khoa has significant potential to deliver the critical raw materials required for Ecopro’s cathode manufacturing process and meet the ever-increasing demand for high-nickel content cathodes driven by the electric vehicle revolution,” he said.
The Ta Khoa nickel project is located 160km west of Hanoi in the Son La Province of Vietnam.
It includes the Ban Phuc modern nickel mine, which was built to Australian Standards as a mechanised underground operation.
The mine operated for three years to 2016, at which time it was placed into care and maintenance amid falling nickel prices.
A maiden drilling program at Ban Phuc earlier this year encountered a significant unmined disseminated nickel sulfide zone.
Blackstone is the first company to assay the Ban Phuc disseminated sulfides (DSS) for platinum group elements (PGEs).
Previous owners focused on the deposit’s massive sulfide vein (MSV), which has relatively low PGE grades, and did not investigate the full potential of PGEs throughout Ta Khoa.
Mr Williamson said Blackstone would deliver a maiden resource on the DSS at Ban Phuc over the coming months.
It will also investigate the potential of restarting the mine’s existing concentrator through focused exploration on MSV and DSS deposits.
Metallurgical testing has commenced on the DSS orebody with an aim to creating a flowsheet for a product suitable for the lithium-ion battery industry.
Blackstone is also working on the potential for the downstream processing facility to produce a nickel-cobalt product to supply Asia’s growing lithium-ion battery industry.
At midday, shares in Blackstone Minerals were trading 10% higher at $0.132.