11/01/2005 - 21:00

BioHeap in China tech joint venture

11/01/2005 - 21:00

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STRUGGLING Western Australian nickel miner Titan Resources says there is tremendous potential for application of its locally developed base metal processing technology in China following a recent agreement with a large Chinese base metals producer.

BioHeap in China tech joint venture

STRUGGLING Western Australian nickel miner Titan Resources says there is tremendous potential for application of its locally developed base metal processing technology in China following a recent agreement with a large Chinese base metals producer.

Titan last week announced its wholly owned subsidiary, BioHeap Ltd, had negotiated a joint venture with Baiyin Nonferrous Metals Corporation to use its bacterial technology to process low-grade copper stockpiles in China.

As part of the unvalued deal, which Titan hopes to finalise at the end of the month, an equal joint venture will be established into which Baiyin will vest ownership of the stockpiles while BioHeap will contribute the technology and fund a feasibility study to develop the project.

BioHeap technical director Colin Hunter said the company had been in China for about four years and was discussing two or three other projects there.

“The more we are there the more people come to us with projects,” Dr Hunter said.

The Baiyin joint venture is the second alliance BioHeap has made offshore following an agreement to conduct test work on copper stockpiles with Erdenet Copper in Mongolia.

Dr Hunter said the joint venture was a significant step in the development of BioHeap Ltd.

BioHeap has also licensed the technology to Western Australian nickel explorer Sherlock Bay Nickel Corporation for use at its undeveloped nickel project in the Pilbara region.

Yet despite these agreements and other testing around the world, the process, which has taken almost seven years and $15 million to develop, including a $3 million Federal Government grant, remains untested commercially.

The unique process uses bacteria to extract base metals from low-grade sulphide ores to a post-smelting stage product.

The announcement was a breath of fresh air for Titan, which was rocked late last year when nickel giant WMC refused to process ore from the company’s Armstrong mine because of metallurgical problems. Titan was forced to halt its mining operations.

Titan’s share price fell from 17 cents to about 8 cents, however the Baiyin venture last week attracted the market’s attention and pushed the price back up to 14.5 cents.

Analysts cautiously welcomed the announcement, however they agreed more detail was required.

Hartleys analyst Jonathon Battershill said the announcement was fairly positive at face value but, due to the lack of detail, it would be very difficult to apply a valid valuation.

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