Nickel is on the cusp of a new era as the lithium-ion battery revolution spawns a huge market for the commodity that has been traditionally fed to the steel sector. The novel situation has turned investors’ attention to ASX-listed nickel stocks – particularly those exploring or producing nickel sulphate.
With both industries vying for the metal, nickel supplies have been placed under increasing pressure – pushing the commodity’s price to its highest level in four years and leaving investors wondering if the price will revisit its pre-GFC peak of more than US$22 per pound.
Nickel stockpiles on the London Metals Exchange (LME) slipped to 276,312t, falling through the 300,000t “psychological barrier” in May.
The drop was a clear sign that demand has begun to outstrip supply, with stockpiles previously sitting above 380,000t until late last year.
Many analysts believe we are witnessing a real drawdown in global nickel supplies, calling it a precursor to a supply crunch that may rival the China boom.
During the past 12 months, the nickel price has steadily risen from around US$4 per pound to hovering around the US$7/lb mark in May and June.
A history of change
There are many examples in history of technology changing the way the world operates including the advent of the internal combustion engine, which put the majority of the population behind the wheel of a car or vehicle over the past century, leaving behind the horse and carriage.
During the 1900s in New York, the horse and carriage was the primary mode of transport. Fast forward ten years and New York’s streets were filled with internal combustion cars, with barely a horse and carriage in sight.
Other technology revolutions include the internet, personal computers and smart devices – just to name a few.
This new clean energy revolution is powered by the lithium-ion battery, which is incorporated in sustainable energy infrastructure, the rapidly emerging electric vehicle industry, as well as a range of burgeoning consumer electronics and chemicals markets.
Widely seen as a critical component in the lithium-ion battery today, it is also handy to look at nickel’s origins.
What is nickel?
Nickel is a hard metal that is primarily alloyed or used as a coating on other metals to boost strength and resistance to corrosion. It most commonly incorporated with steel and copper.
The metal is also used in other applications including coins and batteries.
Swedish chemist Baron Axel Cronstedt was bestowed the honour of discovering the metal in 1751 when he attempted to extract copper and obtained nickel instead.
The metal’s name comes from the German term for Devil’s copper or St Nicholas’ copper.
Despite its “discovery” in the last 400 years, uses of the metal have been traced back thousands of years to 3,500BC.
Initially after Cronstedt liberated the metal, it was extracted from Kupfernickel, which is rare. But by 1824, the metal had become a by-product of cobalt blue production and was first used in steel in the late 1800s.
Nickel in currency
In addition to its incorporation in steel and other metals, nickel has a history in global currencies, with the metal largely incorporated in different coins around the world since the mid-1800s, when it was plentiful.
In Australia, the 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins are all made of an alloy containing copper (75%) and nickel (25%).
Before they were removed from circulation, the 1 cent and 2 cent coins were generated from an alloy that was 97% copper, 2.5% zinc and 0.5% nickel.
Nickel is also found in the “gold” $1 and $2 coins, with these coins comprising 2% nickel, 6% aluminium and 92% copper.
Over in the US, the term “nickel” in currency was coined for a copper-nickel alloy Flying Eagle cent, which was a 1 cent coin in circulation between 1857 and 1858.
Lithium-ion battery and nickel
More than a century later and nickel’s use lies in multiple new technologies including the lithium-ion battery.
The lithium-ion battery’s make up has three primary components: anode, cathode and electrolyte.
There are various formulas for the lithium-ion battery, but one of the more common comprises graphite in the anode, lithium as the electrolyte and the cathode which includes nickel, cobalt and manganese.
At this stage, the three cathode materials are usually in equal portions, but with the rocketing cobalt price and supply bottlenecks, many manufacturers have increased the nickel component, with analysts forecasting nickel will account for 80% of the cathode material in most newer batteries by 2020.
When included in the battery, nickel offers fire resistance, higher stability, more power, longer life and further recharges per battery.
Notorious Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk once said the battery would be more aptly called the “nickel-graphite” battery, “because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide. There’s a little bit of lithium in there, but it’s like the salt on the salad.”
One of the largest markets for the lithium-ion battery and the driver of the sustainable energy revolution is the electric vehicle.
UBS forecasts that 15 million electric vehicles will be produced in 2025.
If this is achieved, at today’s nickel incorporation rates in the battery, this could generate 900,000t of incremental nickel demand.
This figure doesn’t include nickel’s primary steel market, and other end-uses.
Steel and battery markets vie for nickel
As the lithium-ion battery market continues to grow, it has fashioned a new niche for nickel, separate from the metal’s traditional end-use in stainless steel.
With both sectors projected to continue growing, competition may emerge for the commodity as supply tightens.
Refined nickel was in a deficit of almost 100,000t in 2017 and demand is anticipated to outstrip supply to at least 2025.
The World Steel Association forecasts global demand for steel will continue increasing with a 1.8% year-on-year growth anticipated for 2018 and another 0.7% rise in 2019 – propelled by “favourable global economic momentum”.
This is expected to lead to a relative increase in nickel consumption for the sector.
Laterite nickel mineralisation is the primary material used to make lower grade steels like nickel pig iron and ferro nickel.
Meanwhile, another form of nickel ore, nickel sulphide, is mostly preferred by battery manufacturers.
However, as nickel sulphide sources are depleted, the battery sector may turn to laterite nickel producers for their nickel supplies.
Many forecasts have been bandied about but generally it is believed the lithium-ion battery market will be worth US$100 billion by 2025, driven largely by the electric vehicle industry which is anticipated to be facilitated by government regulators as they attempt to bring global pollution under control.
The main reason for the current nickel supply deficit is a dry pipeline of advanced nickel projects.
This has been caused by minimal investment in nickel exploration and development over the past decade, due mostly to surplus stockpiles and the commodity’s uneconomic price.
Battery and electric vehicle manufacturers have started targeting miners and explorers directly to guarantee nickel supplies.
Advanced nickel explorers and producers alike have reported offtake arrangements and discussions in recent months.
Laterite nickel versus sulphide nickel
Manufacturers have two potential main sources: nickel laterite and nickel sulphide deposits.
Nickel laterite deposits are more common and comprise 60% of the world’s nickel resources. This form of nickel covers a larger area, is usually near surface, and is therefore amenable to a less costly open pit mining method.
However, laterite deposits can contain iron and other gangue elements, which make the material more complex and costly to process to generate a higher grade concentrate suitable to the battery sector.
In contrast, sulphide deposits are found both near surface and at depth. Although only accounting for 40% of the world’s nickel resources, the material makes up 60% of mined nickel, according to Monash University.
Due to less complex processing requirements, nickel sulphide deposits usually need less capital expenditure to exploit and process into a battery grade concentrate.
A cautionary tale
As with the nature of technology, it is always evolving and adapting.
Due to the soaring cobalt price and the commodity’s supply issues, electric vehicle leaders Tesla and Panasonic reported they were collaborating on developing a new battery that does not contain cobalt.
The duo is purportedly looking at potentially eliminating nickel from lithium-ion batteries as well.
Other technologies are also in the pipeline including the vanadium redox battery, which is rapidly gaining acknowledged as a power storage option in renewable energy infrastructure like solar farms.
Additionally, there are numerous companies playing with new battery formulas that don’t include nickel to provide enhanced performance at a lower cost.
Some of these include graphene supercapacitors, aluminium-graphite batteries and even powered roads.
However, with battery manufacturers investing billions in current technology and processes, change, if any, may be some years away.
At present, nickel is a critical battery ingredient and the pipeline of advanced nickel projects remains dry – leaving most analysts bullish on the commodity’s future.
Small Caps takes a look at the ASX stocks with exposure to nickel that may stand to benefit in the near and longer-term.
Aneka Tambang (ASX: ATM)
Aneka Tambang is producing nickel and ferronickel across its assets, with the company reporting it had sold 2.11Mt of nickel ore during the March 2018 quarter, which was 302% higher than the previous corresponding period.
The company also reported immense growth in its ferronickel production which was 6,087t – up 107% on the same period in 2017.
During the March period, the company sold almost 1.27Mt of nickel including low and high-grade ore.
In its June operation update, Aneka stated it had experienced improved demand and prices for its nickel.
Aneka is also exploring for nickel at Pomalaa, Tapunopaka, south-east Sulawesi and other areas.
BHP Group (ASX: BHP)
BHP Group owns the Nickel West operations in WA, which the company claims is a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business.
The company owns mines, concentrators, a smelter and refinery which are all located in the same state.
In its latest production update, BHP reported nickel output was up 10% in the nine-months ending March 2018, compared to the 2017 corresponding period.
For the nine-months, 65,600t of nickel was produced, with Mt Keith and Leinster nickel mines accounting for the increased output.
Highlands Pacific (ASX: HIG)
Highlands Pacific has an 8.56% stake in the Ramu nickel cobalt mine in Papua New Guinea which produced 8,210t of nickel and 774t of cobalt during the March 2018 quarter generating the project holders US$89 million in net cash flow.
Once project debt has been repaid, the company’s interest will rise to 11.3% with the potential to grow this to 20.55%. The open pit operation has a 35-year life with resources of 124Mt grading 1% nickel and 0.10% cobalt, and reserves of 49Mt grading 1% nickel and 0.10% cobalt.
During the March period, Highlands Pacific submitted an exploration tenement renewal application at the Sewa Bay nickel laterite project in Normanby Island. The company continues to discuss future exploration at the project with farm-in partners Sojitz and Pacific Metals which have funded exploration to-date.
Independence Group (ASX: IGO)
Independence Group has several operating mines including its wholly-owned Nova nickel-cobalt-copper sulphide underground mine in WA’s Fraser Range, which started commercial production in July 2017.
Nova produced 5,961t of nickel during the March quarter at an average grade of 1.85% nickel.
Updated resources and reserves are anticipated for Nova, with exploration drilling completed to test several near mine targets across the project and broader Fraser Range tenement holding.
Independence Group is also carrying out a prefeasibility study into downstream processing its nickel-cobalt concentrates to produce a sulphate. The metallurgical test work program is due to be completed by mid-2018.
In addition to Nova, the company also owns the Long underground nickel mine in Kambalda, WA.
During the March quarter, the mine produced 1,381t of contained nickel at an average nickel grade of 3.32%.
However, mining at Long was due to be suspended at the end of May.
South32 (ASX: S32)
Multi-commodity producer South32 is enjoying improving fortunes in recent months and delivered a 23% increase in payable nickel production from its Cerro Matoso mine for the half year ending December 2017.
The company anticipates producing 41,600t of nickel for the financial year ending June 2018.
Cerro Matoso is an integrated laterite ferronickel mining and smelting operation in Colombia.
South32 is also exploring for nickel via a strategical alliance with AusQuest (ASX: AQD). Please see this entry for further information on the collaboration.
Western Areas (ASX: WSA)
Nickel miner Western Areas produced 6,236t of sulphide nickel during the March quarter, which the company claims was its highest output in 12 months.
The company is currently operating two nickel mines in WA: Flying Fox and Spotted Quoll. The ore is processed at Western Areas’ Cosmic Boy concentrator.
Ore processed during the March period was 148,083t grading 3.9% nickel for 32,027t of concentrate grading 15.4% nickel.
At the end of the March quarter, Western Areas had more than 1Mt of contained nickel in resource across its assets. In reserves, the company holds 138,000t of contained nickel.
In addition to its mining activities, Western Areas is actively exploring across its portfolio.
Near-term nickel producers
Although not yet producing, there are several explorers with operations collecting dust until the nickel price hits the company’s sweet spot to spur a restart.
Focus Minerals (ASX: FML)
Focus Minerals has a 100% interest in the Nepean tenements in WA which are prospective for nickel.
The mine is on care and maintenance and historically produced 32,303t grading 2.99% nickel.
A bankable feasibility study was completed on the project in 2008, but the languishing nickel price led the company to turn its attention to unlocking the gold potential in its portfolio.
Mincor Resources (ASX: MCR)
Gold miner Mincor Resources claims it is positioning itself for the nickel revival by building its inventory of nickel sulphide projects. The company owns several projects in the Kambalda nickel district of WA and has firmed up 99,200t of contained nickel in resource and 28,200t of nickel in reserves.
The company’s strategy is to rapidly advance its projects to capitalise on the nickel market’s forecast growth. It holds two ore reserve projects on care and maintenance: Durkin North and Miitel/Burnett. Detailed feasibility studies have been completed on both projects.
Mincor has also uncovered what it calls a “significant” nickel sulphide discovery at the Cassini prospect, which it is fast-tracking to establish a maiden resource and then scoping studies.
Better drill intersections have included: 6.02m at 9.03% nickel, 7.19m at 7.23% nickel and 6.42m at 7.25% nickel.
In addition to Cassini, Mincor has multiple regional “high priority” targets to follow up.
Panoramic Resources (ASX: PAN)
Panoramic Resources has the Savannah and Lanfranchi nickel projects.
Lanfranchi remains on care and maintenance and Panoramic is reviewing its options for the project.
However, Savannah is undergoing pre-production activities including refurbishing the process plant and short-listing potential offtake partners.
Once a decision to restart Savannah has been made, Panoramic hopes to be able to do it in a short time-frame.
The restart is contingent on Panoramic sourcing project finance, locking-in its offtake and a “sustained recovery” in the nickel price.
At the stage, Savannah has a current resource of 13.2Mt grading 1.65% nickel, 0.75% copper and 0.11% cobalt for 218,300t of nickel, 99,100t copper and 14,900t cobalt.
The initial proposed mine life is 8.3 years with estimated production of 108,700t nickel, 51,700t copper and 7,300t cobalt.
Additionally, Panoramic plans to carry out regional exploration across the project to increase resources and mine life.
Poseidon Nickel (ASX: POS)
Poseidon Nickel has six independent nickel sulphide mines and two concentrators in WA’s goldfields region.
During the downturn, Poseidon built its resource inventory to 400,000t of contained nickel. The company claims it is one of Australia’s largest ASX-listed nickel sulphide stocks and one of few with advanced projects.
Poseidon is waiting for the nickel price to remain above US$6 per pound before it makes the decision to restart its high-grade 9% nickel Silver Swan mine, which has a two-year mine life.
Once operational, Poseidon anticipates 7,000t per month of the mine’s high-grade nickel.
Then, when generating positive cash flow, Poseidon will funnel the funds into recommissioning the nearby Black Swan pit and plant and use revenue from these operations to advance other projects, restart the Lake Johnston plant and, potentially, discover another nickel deposit.
Poseidon chief operating officer Michael Rodriguez believes there is “no question” the nickel price will be where it needs to be by the end of the year for the company to make the restart decision.
Talisman Mining (ASX: TLM)
Talisman Mining owns 100% in the Sinclair nickel project within WA’s Agnew-Wiluna greenstone belt.
Sinclair was commissioned in 2008 and operated from more than five years before being placed on care and maintenance in August 2013.
The mine produced 38,500 at an average head grade of 2.44% nickel.
Sinclair covers 290sq km and hosts more than 80km of strike, as well as extensive infrastructure including a 350,000tpa processing plant.
However, the company is actively pursuing its gold and copper assets.
Feasibility study stage
In addition to the above mentioned stocks, there are many nickel explorers that have either completed feasibility studies or carrying one out.
Ardea Resources (ASX: ARL)
Ardea Resources holds 1,738sq km of ground near Kalgoorlie in WA that is prospective for nickel-cobalt laterite mineralisation.
The flagship project Goongarie accounts for 142sq km of the area and a prefeasibility study was recently completed at the project.
Under the prefeasibility study, a 25-year mine life is estimated to produce 41,500tpa of nickel sulphate.
A definitive feasibility study is ongoing.
Ardea also owns the nickel sulphide projects in WA including Perrinvale, which lies along strike from St George’s Mt Alexander asset.
Australian Mines (ASX: AUZ)
Australian Mines is advancing its flagship Sconi laterite cobalt, nickel and scandium project in Queensland.
The company locked-in an offtake agreement in February for 100% of its cobalt and nickel for seven years.
SK Innovation will purchase 60,000tpa of nickel sulphate from the miner.
Sconi has a resource of 89Mt grading 0.11% cobalt and 0.80% nickel with an initial 20-year mine life.
Additional drilling has produced up to 1.46% nickel from 21m.
Australian Mines is progressing finance negotiations to fund the project’s development through to cash flow, with an estimated build time of two years and 36-month ramp up.
Subject to financing success, Australian Mines plans to begin construction at the project in February 2019.
Axiom Mining (ASX: AVQ)
After a long delay, the Solomon Islands Government finally granted Axiom Mining’s mining lease application for its 80%-owned San Jorge nickel laterite deposit, part of the company’s Isabel nickel project in the Solomon Island’s Isabel province.
Axiom has been exploring the project since late 2014 and announced its maiden JORC resource estimate in September 2015. The resource was upgraded three months later to 3.96Mt at 1.7% nickel at a 1.4% nickel cut-off.
A mining lease permit was anticipated in 2016, but the company was plagued by ownership legalities within the country.
In addition to the mining lease, the Solomon Islands Government also approved two prospecting licence applications over nickel deposits in the region.
At the time of writing, Axiom was preparing to mobilise key mining personnel and infrastructure to the site to begin developing the project.
Barra Resources (ASX: BAR)
Barra Resources holds 50% of the Mt Thirsty cobalt-nickel oxide project in WA, with joint venture partner Conico retaining the other 50%.
A prefeasibility study is underway at the project, which Barra claims is in Norseman’s emerging “cobalt valley”.
The mineralisation lies over 1.3km of strike and is believed about 800m wide.
A scoping study on Mt Thirsty indicated a 21-year mine life, with the project close to critical infrastructure and 16km from the town of Norseman.
Mt Thirsty has a JORC (2004) indicated resource of 16.6Mt grading 0.14% cobalt, 0.60% nickel and 0.98% manganese. An additional inferred resource sits at 15.3Mt grading 0.11% cobalt, 0.51% nickel and 0.73% manganese.
The joint venture is evaluating opportunities to unlock both the nickel and cobalt.
Cassini Resources (ASX: CZI)
Cassini Resources owns the West Musgrave project where OZ Minerals in earning a 70% interest. For further information on this project, please see the OZ Minerals entry.
Cassini also has an option to earn 80% in the Yarrawindah Brook project which is prospective for nickel-copper-cobalt sulphide mineralisation. Early stage exploration has started including an airborne electromagnetic survey, which identified targets to follow up.
More work including drilling are expected to begin in the second half of 2018.
Clean TeQ (ASX: CLQ)
Clean TeQ is advancing its wholly-owned Sunrise project (formerly Syerston) in NSW. Clean TeQ claims the project hosts one of the largest and highest-grade cobalt resources out of Africa. The project is also prospective for nickel and scandium.
A definitive feasibility study is underway into the viability of increasing metal production and building flexibility into the process plant.
The definitive feasibility study is investigating increasing nickel production to 25,000t per annum based on a resource of 593,000t of contained nickel.
The company is negotiating offtake agreements and has begun early works at the project.
Collerina Cobalt (ASX: CLL)
Previously known as Augur Resources, Collerina Cobalt is exploring for nickel, cobalt and high purity alumina at its namesake project in NSW.
To extract the minerals, Collerina has developed its own proprietary processing technology.
The project comprises 224sq km and is close to CleanTeQ’s Sunrise asset and Australian Mines’ Flemington project in the region.
To-date, mineralisation has been identified from surface to a 60m depth and remains open along strike and at depth.
The flagship Homeville deposit has a resource of 16.3Mt grading 3.1% aluminium, 0.93% nickel and 0.05% cobalt.
About 151,000t of contained nickel has been estimated in the deposit and a prefeasibility study was due to be announced in mid-2018, with the definitive feasibility study to start soon after.
Conico Ltd (ASX: CNJ)
Conico owns 50% of the Mt Thirsty nickel-cobalt project near Norseman in WA, with Barra Resources holding the other 50%.
For further information on Mt Thirsty, see the Barra Resources entry.
Corazon Mining (ASX: CZN)
Corazon Mining is exploring for nickel along with copper and cobalt at its wholly-owned Lynn Lake project in Canada.
The company is upgrading the resource to include the cobalt element with the previous resource sitting at 9.4Mt grading 0.88% nickel and 0.47% copper for 83,000t of nickel and 37,800t of copper.
Corazon is also planning a scoping study for Lynn Lake to take advantage of the rising cobalt and nickel prices.
GME Resources (ASX: GME)
During the March quarter, GME Resources actively progressed its NiWest nickel-cobalt project in WA.
The company claims the project hosts one of the “largest high-grade” nickel-cobalt deposits in the country.
NiWest has a resource of 81Mt grading 1.03% nickel and 0.06% cobalt (at a 0.8% nickel cut-off).
A pre-feasibility study is underway at the project and was due for completion at the end of the June 2018 quarter.
Metallurgical test work is evaluating a simpler flowsheet using heap leach processing.
Enhanced resource modelling, mine planning and optimisation activities are all being carried out.
GME aims to produce nickel and cobalt sulphate products suitable to the lithium-ion battery sector and the company noted that it has been in ongoing discussions with manufacturing parties.
Jervois Mining (ASX: JRV)
Jervois Mining is carrying out a prefeasibility study at its 100%-owned Nico Young cobalt-nickel project in NSW, with the study anticipated to wind up during the September 2018 quarter.
The project hosts total resources of 167.8Mt at 0.59% nickel and 0.06% cobalt for 996,700 to of contained nickel and 96,600t of cobalt, based on a 0.6% nickel equivalent cut-off.
Resources cover the primary Ardnaree and Thuddungra deposits.
Jervois Mining has an accelerated development strategy for the project and purchased a 400-tonne per hour heap leach agglomerator, stacker and conveying equipment from Fox Resources (ASX: FSX) in April.
Metals X (ASX: MLX)
Metals X wholly-owns the Central Musgrave nickel-cobalt project, which encompasses 1,957sq km of prospective tenure straddling the WA, NT and SA borders.
The project hosts the Wingellina and Claude Hills nickel deposits, as well as the Mt Davies prospects.
Central Musgrave hosts 2Mt of contained nickel and 154,000t of cobalt, with flagship deposit Wingellina comprising an ore reserve of 1.56Mt nickel and 123,000t of cobalt.
According to Metals X, Wingellina is one of the world’s “largest undeveloped nickel-cobalt deposits” and the company is in ongoing discussion with interested parties.
A phase one feasibility study has been completed that projected a 40-year mine life.
Metals X claims its Wingellina nickel laterite ore is amenable to high pressure acid leaching, unlike some other nickel laterite projects in the country.
OZ Minerals (ASX: OZL)
OZ Minerals is actively exploring its West Musgrave project in WA with a prefeasibility study underway. Metallurgical test work is looking into optimising nickel and copper recoveries from the ore.
In mid-2016, OZ Minerals entered an agreement to secure 70% of West Musgrave from Cassini Resources.
The project includes the Nebo-babel and Succoth nickel and copper deposits and OZ Minerals aims to develop a “scaleable, low cost, long life, open pit mining operation” at the project, which hosts more than 1Mt of contained nickel in resource.
OZ Minerals is also earning up to 75% in the Eastern Musgrave project in SA, which is about 500km east of West Musgrave.
Pelican Resources (ASX: PEL)
Pelican Resources is in the process of divesting its partially-owned Romblon nickel project on Sibuyan Island in the Philippines to Dynamo.
During the March 2018 period, sale negotiations regarding a share sale and assignment of debt agreement for the project continued.
In the interim, the Romblon laterite nickel project remained on care and maintenance as a result of a Philippine Government cease and desist order, with Pelican’s local subsidiary pursuing legal avenues.
Platina Resources (ASX: PGM)
Platina Resources recently completed the pilot plant program for its 100%-owned Owendale scandium, cobalt and nickel project in NSW.
The pilot plant program was part of the definitive feasibility study at the project which is due for completion by the end of 2018.
A prefeasibility study was completed in July 2017 and was based on a resource of 27.9Mt grading 385ppm scandium, 0.33g/t platinum, 0.12% nickel and 0.06% cobalt. The contained nickel was estimated at 33,900t.
The study estimated a A$94 million capital cost to develop a 44-year operation with average throughput of 50,000tpa.
Any nickel produced would be a credit to the primary scandium operation.
Options for further nickel and cobalt recoveries will be investigated in the definitive feasibility study.
Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO)
Rio Tinto has what it claims is one advanced nickel project – Tamarack in the US.
The company has a stake in greenfields nickel projects across Australia and Canada.
Rox Resources (ASX: RXL)
Rox Resources is actively exploring two projects in WA that are prospective for nickel sulphides.
Diamond drilling is ongoing at the Fisher East nickel project, while aircore drilling is underway at the Collurabbie project, which yielded 32m grading 0.48% nickel, 0.28% copper, 0.03% copper, 218ppb platinum and 347ppb palladium.
Fisher east hosts about 50,600t of contained nickel, while Collurabbie is estimated to hold 13,500t.
Development studies are evaluating the best way to unlock the projects’ value.
TNG Ltd (ASX: TNG)
Vanadium and titanium focused TNG also owns a 20% interest in the Cawse Extended nickel and cobalt project.
The project is currently on care and maintenance and private company Mesmeric Enterprises retains the other 80% and operates the project.
Nickel laterite has been found at the project, which contains a non-JORC 2008 resource of 62.6Mt grading 0.69% nickel and 0.03% cobalt.
TNG is free-carried to production and can elect to change this to a2% net smelter return.
Other projects with nickel
Nickel is often a by-product or co-product for many explorers, but if the price continues upward, then the focus may deviate to nickel.
ASX-listed companies with earlier stage exploration projects that contain nickel are outlined below.
Alchemy Resources (ASX: ALY)
Multi-commodity explorer Alchemy Resources is farming into the West Lynn and Woodsreef nickel-cobalt projects in NSW.
The company can acquire up to 80% in the projects from Heron Resources (ASX: HRR).
West Lynn encompasses 100sq km and historic data revealed intercepts of 19m grading 1.21% nickel, 0.10% cobalt from 36m and 16m grading 0.98% nickel and 0.07% cobalt from 37m.
Alchemy has generated an exploration target for West Lynn of up to 30Mt grading 0.90% nickel and 0.07% cobalt.
Archer Exploration (ASX: AXE)
Graphite focused Archer Exploration is undertaking a review of its non-graphite assets which may include a spin off into a new entity.
The company’s exposure to nickel is via the Ketchowla manganese project.
Metallurgical test work was conducted on Ketchowla ore, which extracted nickel along with cobalt, copper and manganese.
Arrow Minerals (ASX: AMD)
Formerly Segue Resources, Arrow Minerals recently announced it was farming out up to 90% of its 2,500sq km tenements in the Fraser Range, which are believed to host nickel, to Independence Group.
Under the agreement, Independence Group can increase its interest in Fraser Range tenements from 51% to 90% by spending A$5 million on exploration by 2022.
Arrow is also in the process of divesting its remaining 20% in the Pardoo nickel project to Caeneus Minerals.
Artemis Resources (ASX: ARV)
Artemis Resources has uncovered high-grade nickel across some of its Pilbara tenements in WA. In May this year, Artemis reported it had intersected up to 11.15% nickel at its Ruth Well project and identified 3.5km of nickel strike.
Exploration for the commodity is ongoing.
Nickel was also recently struck during drilling at the company’s Radio Hill deposit. Both nickel tenements are close to the company’s Radio Hill processing plant.
Aura Energy (ASX: AEE)
Aura Energy completed a first pass exploration program at it Mauritanian properties and uncovered a 1.6km high-grade nickel zone.
The company plans to drill test the nickel and cobalt potential at the Bella permit where nickel grading up to 0.914% has been found during initial reconnaissance.
Additionally, the polymetallic Haggan project in Sweden has a resource comprising 90Mt grading 0.42% vanadium, 0.04% nickel, 0.055% zinc, 0.022% molybdenum and 0.016% uranium.
Ausmon Resources (ASX: AOA)
Ausmon Resources recently agreed to gain 100% in three projects in Queensland and NSW: Greenvale (QLD), Mount Tewoo (QLD) and Broken Hill (NSW).
The projects total 628sq km and are believed prospective for cobalt, nickel and manganese.
Ausmon has begun planning its phase one exploration programs including field work and airborne surveys.
Australian Vanadium (ASX: AVL)
Australian Vanadium owns the Gabanintha project where it is exploring for vanadium.
The company is undertaking test work to unlock the other mineral credits including nickel which is present in low grades within the fresh rock.
Test work has recovered up to 2.58% nickel in concentrate from flotation and the company is calculating a resource that includes nickel and other base metal elements.
AusQuest (ASX: AQD)
AusQuest has a strategic alliance with BHP spin-off South32 where the companies are exploring for nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation across the Jimberlana, Balladonia, Caramulla, Yallum Hill nickel projects in WA.
Drilling to firming up targets will be undertaken across the project in 2018.
The duo is also currently on the hunt for new nickel opportunities.
Aus Tin Mining (ASX: ANW)
Tin focussed Aus Tin Mining is advancing its Mt Cobalt cobalt and nickel project where drilling in the March period returned a 28.15m intersection grading 0.29% cobalt, 2.36% manganese and 0.73% nickel.
Other drilling pulled up small intervals with nickel grading up to 1.30%. Preliminary metallurgical test work has been carried out on Mt Cobalt ore and the company was able to upgrade the nickel from 0.5% to 1.6% through gravity separation.
The company is reviewing several processing routes including separating the minerals or selling it as direct shipping ore.
Blackstone Minerals (ASX: BSX)
Blackstone Minerals has exposure to nickel via its Cartier cobalt-nickel project in Canada and Silver Swan South nickel project in WA.
Silver Swan South is along trend from Poseidon’s high-grade Silver Swan mine.
The Cartier project covers 9sq km of ground in 440km north-east of Quebec City in Canada.
Boss Resources (ASX: BOE)
Boss Resources reported the group owns tenements prospective for nickel.
However, exploration has not occurred in a few years.
Caeneus Minerals (ASX: CAD)
In mid-June, Caeneus Minerals agreed to lock-in its final 20% of the Pardoo nickel project in WA from Arrow Minerals.
Assays from drilling in November 2017 returned up to 0.24% nickel.
In its last update, Caeneus stated it was reviewing all exploration data in detail.
Carawine Resources (ASX: CWX)
Carawine Resources is farming out its interest in the Fraser Range project which comprises five granted exploration licences in four areas in WA.
According to Carawine, the Fraser Range project is prospective for magmatic nickel-sulphide deposits similar to Independence Group’s Nova nickel operation.
Independence Group has earned 51% of the project and can increase this to 70% by spending A$5 million on exploration by the end of 2021.
Preliminary exploration is scheduled for the project including electromagnetic surveys.
Castillo Copper (ASX: CCZ)
Castillo Copper is exploring for copper, cobalt and zinc across its assets. On its Marlborough project in Queensland, Castillo has identified three prospects in an area believed to host cobalt-nickel mineralisation.
Legacy data across Marlborough and the nearby Queensland nickel project reveals non-JORC reserves of 48.7Mt grading 0.94% nickel and 0.06% cobalt.
The company was planning a maiden drilling campaign once targets have been identified.
Celsius Resources (ASX: CLA)
Celsius Resources owns 100% of the Abednegno Hill in WA. The project is near Glencore subsidiary Minara Resources’ Murrin Murrin nickel mine. A ground electromagnetic survey identified two bedrock anomalies for follow up.
As well as Abednegno Hill, Celsius has a 30% interest in Carinlya Hill in WA. Mincor Resources holds the other 70%.
No recent activity has been undertaken across the project.
Centaurus Metals (ASX: CTM)
Iron ore-focused Centaurus Metals is exploring the Itapitanga nickel-cobalt project in northern Brazil.
Drilling has pulled up 24m at 0.294% nickel and 0.08% cobalt from surface, 14m at 1.73% nickel and 0.05% cobalt from 4m, and 18m at 1.05% nickel and 0.11% cobalt from surface.
The project is 15km from Anglo American’s Jacare nickel-cobalt deposit which has a mineral resource of 307Mt grading 1.3% nickel and 0.13% cobalt.
Centaurus is still exploring and hopes to quickly publish a maiden resource at the project.
Clancy Exploration (ASX: CLY)
Clancy Exploration is in the process of acquiring a 100% of three cobalt assets in Morocco. Nickel has also been identified at the projects.
Due diligence was still being conducted at the time of writing.
Cougar Metals (ASX: CGM)
According to Cougar Metals it holds the nickel rights for Pyke Hill project which is 40km from the Murrin Murrin operation.
No exploration activity was undertaken during the March 2018 quarter, but Cougar is reviewing options for progressing the project.
European Cobalt (ASX: EUC)
European Cobalt’s flagship project is the wholly-owned Dobsina project in Slovakia. Although European Cobalt is primarily focused on the cobalt content, the project is prospective for nickel sulphide as well.
Channel sampling at the Joremeny target identified 1.7m grading 2.10% cobalt and 4.42% nickel. Sampling from waste dumps in October 2017 found 8.57% nickel.
Drilling and other exploration is ongoing at the project.
European Cobalt also owns the historic Kolba cobalt-copper-nickel-silver mine in central Slovakia.
Galileo Mining (ASX: GAL)
Recent ASX debutant Galileo Mining is exploring for several commodities including nickel at its Fraser Range and Norseman projects.
The Norseman project hosts 106,000t of nickel in resource, with Galileo claiming there is “exploration upside”.
Drilling at Norseman is expected to begin in late June along with metallurgical test work.
At the Fraser Range project, exploration for targets is underway.
Of note, Mark Creasy holds a 31% stake in the company.
Golden Mile Resources (ASX: G88)
Golden Mile Resources is focused on advancing its Quicksilver nickel-cobalt discovery in WA.
Significant nickel intersections from a reverse circulation drilling campaign were 57m at 0.63% nickel, 0.07% cobalt from 44m, with a 4m interval comprising 1.36% nickel and 0.10% cobalt from 69m, and 13m at 0.83% nickel and 0.04% cobalt from 31m.
Golden Miles plans to develop a resource and carry out metallurgical and processing test work.
Great Boulder Resources (ASX: GBR)
Great Boulder Resources is on the ground at its Yamarna-Mt Venn copper-nickel-cobalt project in WA.
Phase two drilling returned a 33m intersection grading 0.5% copper, 0.10% nickel and 0.05% cobalt from 76m.
Metallurgical test work is ongoing and the company secured funds in late May to pay for more drilling, with a focus on the Eastern Mafic complex.
Great Western Exploration (ASX: GTE)
WA-focused Great Western Exploration is exposed to nickel through two projects: its Yerrida North joint venture where Sandfire Resources (ASX: SFR) is earning a 70% stake by firming up 50,000t of contained copper across the project. The tenements are also believed prospective for cobalt, copper and gold.
Great Western owns 100% of the Fairbairn copper-cobalt-nickel project which is suspected to host numerous minerals including nickel sulphide. Great Western is compiling data on the region for follow-up exploration.
Greenpower Energy (ASX: GPP)
Greenpower Energy has secured a heads of agreement with Kopang Resources to acquire up to 74% of the Kopang lithium and nickel project in Guyana.
However, before the agreement to move forward it is awaiting official regulatory approvals.
Hannans (ASX: HNR)
Hannans is exploring for nickel, lithium and gold in WA. The company’s Forrestania nickel project (also known as the Stormbreaker prospect) is along strike from Western Areas’ operating nickel sulphide Spotted Quoll and Flying Fox mines.
Hannans also owns the Queen Victoria Rocks nickel project and has a free-carried 15% stake in the Lake Johnston nickel and lithium project.
In order to unlock the nickel value of Forrestania and Queen Victoria Rocks, Hannans is looking to secure a joint venture.
Helix Resources (ASX: HLX)
Helix Resources is exploring its Collerina tenements in NSW, which are in the same regional trend as CleanTeQ’s Sunrise asset and Australian Mines’ Flemington project, which are prospective for cobalt-nickel laterite ore.
Early stage exploration is ongoing and the company hopes to release a maiden resource for the copper content.
Heron Resources (ASX: HRR)
Heron Resources is farming out its West Lynn and Woodsreef nickel-cobalt projects in NSW to Alchemy Resources.
Please refer to the Alchemy entry for further information.
Impact Minerals (ASX: IPT)
Impact Minerals’ Broken Hill project covers 727sq km and is prospective for multiple commodities including nickel in NSW. Impact owns 100% if the rights to the platinum group element, copper and nickel minerals.
During the 2017 financial year, Impact carried out a helicopter electromagnetic survey which delineated eight areas to follow up for exploration.
A 1.2m intercept at the Rockwell-Little Broken Hill Trend returned up to 7.4% nickel sulphide.
Kairos Minerals (ASX: KAI)
Gold focused Kairos Minerals is searching for gold, cobalt, copper, nickel and manganese at its Roe Hills project in the Pilbara.
Recent aircore drilling at the project intersected up to 0.67% nickel.
Further drilling has been pencilled in for the next 12 months to evaluate the region’s potential.
Kibaran Resources (ASX: KNL)
Kibaran Resources holds a 100% interest in Kibaran Nickel (Tanzania) Ltd.
The company has not reported any exploration activity for nickel in Tanzania for more than 12 months.
Korab Resources (ASX: KOR)
Korab Resources’ Rum Jungle projects are in near Darwin in the NT.
The early stage exploration projects are prospective for multiple commodities including nickel.
No recent activity has been reported across the projects.
Legend Mining (ASX: LEG)
Aircore drilling at Legend Mining’s Rockford project in WA’s Fraser Range returned nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation.
Notable intersections were 19m grading 0.23% nickel, 0.33% copper, 0.02 cobalt from 52m, including 1m containing 0.31% nickel, 0.68% copper and 0.02% cobalt.
Another intersection was 36m wide and graded 0.39% nickel, 0.23% copper and 0.04% cobalt from 62%.
Further exploration activities have been planned for later in the year.
MetalsTech (ASX: MTC)
MetalsTech agreed to acquire 100% of the Rusty Lake cobalt-silver project in Ontario during the March quarter.
Nickel grading up to 8.64% was uncovered in stockpiles during due diligence site visits.
Preliminary exploration is ongoing and MetalsTech plans to drill at the project during the second half of 2018.
Meteoric Resources (ASX: MEI)
As with numerous other explorers, Canadian-focused junior Meteoric Resources is focusing on cobalt exploration across its portfolio, with several of the projects also prospective for nickel.
The company recently staked the 9.34sq km Burt project which historically returned up to 0.38% nickel.
Meanwhile, at the Mulligan project, previous exploration yielded up to 1.03% nickel.
A maiden drilling program at the Midrim project returned a 9.4m intersection grading 3.52% nickel, along with cobalt and platinum group elements.
MinRex Resources (ASX: MRR)
MinRex Resources has collected rock samples from its Bamboo Creek project in the Pilbara.
Elevated nickel was pinpointed at the Nobb Well prospect. The project is about 75sq km and MinRex has a 70% stake.
The company is also in the process of acquiring the Dragon and Knight nickel-cobalt projects in WA and Pacific Express in NSW.
MinRex recently published a maiden resource for Pacific Express that includes 6,301t of contained nickel.
MMG Limited (ASX: MMG)
MMG is exploring the Limoerio nickel sulphide project in Brazil and the Plumridge nickel project in Australia. During 2017, 2,452m was diamond drilled for five holes at Limoerio, while 10 reverse circulation holes were undertaken at Plumridge and totalled 3,216m.
In its March quarterly update, MMG reported exploration was carried out at numerous greenfield projects in different countries including Brazil and Australia, as well as planning for further exploration.
Mount Ridley Mines (ASX: MRD)
Mount Ridley Mines has identified nickel sulphide targets at the T19 prospect, which is part of its namesake project in the Fraser Range.
Exploration at the project has revealed up to 4% nickel.
Further exploration has been planned.
Musgrave Minerals (ASX: MGV)
Musgrave Minerals holds a granted exploration licence encompasses 1,900sq km South Australia’s Musgrave Province and 16 further licence applications.
Nickel has been found on the Zarek prospect.
The company is currently seeking a joint venture partner to accelerate exploration across this project.
Northern Cobalt (ASX: N27)
Northern Cobalt just started its 2018 field season at its flagship Wollogorang project in the NT.
Although Northern Cobalt is focused on unlocking the project’s cobalt potential, it also has a nickel credit.
An updated resource was published for the primary Stanton deposit in April and now sits at 942,000t grading 0.13% cobalt, 0.06% nickel and 0.12% copper.
Exploration across the project is being fast-tracked with Northern Cobalt managing director Michael Schwarz claiming the mineralisation is predominantly non-refractory and could be potentially developed at much lower capex.
Northern Star Resources (ASX: NST)
Northern Star is earning up to 75% in the Acra gold project in WA, which was historically explored for nickel.
However, at this stage, the exploration focus remains on gold.
Orion Minerals (ASX: ORN)
Independence Group is earning into Orion Mineral’s nickel tenements in the Fraser Range, where it has carried out preliminary exploration activities.
Over in South Africa, Orion is farming into the Namaqua-Disawell project, which is prospective for nickel as well as other minerals.
Pepinnini Lithium (ASX: PNN)
Pepinnini Minerals holds 100% in the Musgrave Province projects which cover 14,003sq km in SA’s Musgrave Province.
The projects are believed to host nickel-copper-cobalt sulphides and targets were identified from an airborne electromagnetic survey in 2016.
No recent field work has been carried out at the tenements.
Pioneer Resources (ASX: PIO)
Pioneer Resources is on the ground at its Golden Ridge cobalt-nickel laterite project in the eastern goldfields.
A recent 31-hole reverse circulation drilling program yielded 31m at 0.15% cobalt and 0.37% nickel from 43m.
A nickel sulphide discovery was also made which returned 22m at 1.02% nickel from 202m.
Upcoming exploration will involve resource definition drilling and metallurgical test work.
The Pioneer Dome project, also in WA, is prospective for nickel sulphide as well as other minerals.
In addition to the above, Pioneer holds a 20% stake in the Maggie Hays Lake joint venture with Poseidon Nickel owning 80%. Pioneer is free carried to the start of mining.
Renascor Resources (ASX: RNU)
Graphite-focused Renascor Resources owns the Munglinup project in WA which is prospective for several commodities including nickel.
Renascor claims the 579sq km tenement package is in the same structural setting as Poseidon Nickel’s Maggie Hays and Emily Ann nickel sulphide deposits.
No recent exploration has been reported at the project.
Riedel Resources (ASX: RIE)
Riedel Resources’ flagship asset is the Carmenes cobalt-copper-nickel project in Spain.
Shallow excavation at the Profunda East prospect returned 0.14% nickel.
The company is planning and preparing for a maiden drilling program which will focus on the historic Profunda mine.
Sabre Resources (ASX: SBR)
Sabre Resources recently posted a resource upgrade for its flagship Sherlock Bay project in WA’s Pilbara.
The resource now sits at 24.6Mt grading 0.4% nickel, 0.09% copper and 0.02% cobalt.
Contained nickel at the project is about 99,200t.
Sabre is “rapidly advancing” the project and updating and verifying feasibility and metallurgical test work that was done by previous operators.
Sandfire Resources (ASX: SFR)
Sandfire Resources is earning 70% of Great Western’s Yerrida North project. The company is focussed on building a copper resource, but the project is believed prospective for other minerals including nickel.
For further information, please refer to the Great Western entry.
Santa Fe Minerals (ASX: SFM)
Santa Fe Minerals is searching for sulphide nickel at its Yarrambie and Watson’s Well projects in WA.
The company is undertaking early stage exploration across both assets.
Sipa Resources (ASX: SRI)
Sipa Resources is on the ground in Uganda to find nickel and copper sulphide mineralisation.
The company’s nickel assets include the Kitgum Pader, Akelikongo and Akelikongo West projects, where several anomalies have been identified for follow-up.
Nickel has also been identified at the North Paterson project in WA, which it plans to drill test later this year.
Sipa plans to continue exploring the project including its flagship project Akelikongo, which hosts a nickel-copper sulphide discovery.
Southern Gold (ASX: SAU)
Southern Gold has earned an 80% interest in several tenements that make up the Bulong project in Western Australia, which are believed prospective for nickel.
No exploration activity has been reported on the tenements in more than 12 months.
The tenements are also prospective for gold which is the company’s primary exploration and development focus.
Spitfire Materials (ASX: SPI)
Spitfire Materials’ South Woodie Woodie manganese project is potentially prospective for base metals including nickel.
However, this has not been tested.
St George Mining (ASX: SGQ)
St George Mining calls itself an emerging WA nickel company and has been drilling the Mt Alexander project near Leonora, where 4.5km of strike prospective for nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation has been uncovered.
Recent drilling has returned 9.75m at 3.46% nickel, 1.76% copper, 0.16% cobalt and 2.26g/t platinum group elements.
St George is also drilling at its wholly-owned East Laverton and Hawaii nickel sulphide projects.
Tasman Resources (ASX: TAS)
Tasman Resources is exposed to nickel through its 12% stake in Conico (ASX: CNJ), which holds a 50% interest in the Mt Thirsty nickel-cobalt project in WA.
Further information can be found under the Conico and Barra entries.
Thundelarra (ASX: THX)
Thundelarra holds a 20% fee carried interest in the Keller Creek exploration licence that covers 81sq km in WA. The licence is about 120km from Panoramic Resources’ Savannah nickel mine.
Panoramic earned 80% in Keller Creek where previous drilling unearthed nickel sulphide mineralisation grading 2.40%.
UraniumSA (ASX: USA)
UraniumSA recently acquired six projects across NSW, the NT and WA that are believed prospective for cobalt, copper and nickel.
The assets are close to advanced projects in each region and UraniumSA has begun geological investigations, focussing on the NSW projects Perseus and Midas.
Ventnor Resources (ASX: VRX)
Ventnor Resources holds a 100% in the Warrawanda nickel sulphide project in WA. No exploration has been reported across the tenements since 2017 when preliminary exploration was carried out.
The company also owns the Biranup project, which is close to AngloGold Ashanti’s Tropicana gold mine. Copper and nickel anomalies, along with several other minerals, have been identified at Biranup.
Venture Minerals (ASX: VMS)
Venture Minerals has used the nearology strategy and has applied for four exploration licences equating to about 822sq km along strike from Golden Mile Resources’ Quicksilver nickel cobalt discovery in WA.
Collectively known as the Pingaring nickel-cobalt project, the tenements are also close to the Forrestania Greenstone Belt which hosts Western Areas’ Spotted Quoll and Flying Fox nickel sulphide deposits.
Venture is focused on securing a dominant land position in the region and had identified several targets at its project for follow-up.
Venus Metals (ASX: VMC)
Venus Metals completed a drilling program at its Youanmi cobalt project which is also prospective for nickel.
Drilling unearthed an 8m intercept grading 1.07% nickel from 12m at the Estonia prospect. Infill drilling has been planned as well as testing new targets along strike.
Vimy Resources (ASX: VMY)
Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rock uranium project also hosts batter minerals including nickel. Due to rising base metals’ prices, the company reviewed the proposed base metals plant that was included in a 2015 definitive feasibility study.
The company found the plant would now be economical and is completing an updated assessment.
In the original study, it was shown 6,200t of nickel could be recovered through the mine’s life-span.
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