29/10/2020 - 12:35

Blackstone bolsters leadership group to develop Vietnam nickel project

29/10/2020 - 12:35


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Blackstone Minerals has moved quickly to put a mine-to-market management group in place to develop its Ta Khoa nickel-copper-PGE project in Vietnam. The appointments come just a fortnight after the company tabled a scoping study with a tantalising set of numbers including a A$1 billion present-day valuation and net pre-tax cash flows in excess of US$1.2 billion over the projected 8.5-year life of mine.

Just a couple of weeks after unveiling its much-anticipated scoping study for the Ta Khoa nickel project in Vietnam, ASX-listed Blackstone Minerals has appointed an experienced management group to drive Ta Khoa forward as mine-to-market nickel business.

Whilst Blackstone already has a tantalising set of numbers headlined by net pre-tax cash flows in excess of US$1.2 billion over the projected 8.5-year life of mine, its newly expanded team will push ahead to complete its PFS-level studies early next year.

The new team will be headed by Andrew Strickland, a Perth local and former manager at GR Engineering, who will take on the role of Head of Project Development. He has a history of developing mining & metals projects across different commodities and jurisdictions, including stints at Perseus Mining and South32.

Mr Strickland will be supported by experienced mine manager, Richard Kitchener who will slot into the General Manager of Operations role. Mr Kitchener already has over ten years of mining operations experience across northern Vietnam, including time with Ban Phuc Nickel Mines, the previous owner of Blackstone’s renamed Ta Khoa project.

Blackstone also saw potential amongst its existing employees promoting metallurgist Steve Ennor to the role of General Manager, Project Development and environmental manager and Ms Vũ Hồng Cấm Vân to General Manager, Commercial.

Blackstone Minerals’ Managing Director, Scott Williamson said the appointment of these key leadership roles is an important step towards delivering the redevelopment of the Ta Khoa Project over the coming years.

Mr Williamson added: "Mr Strickland’s and Mr Kitchener’s skills and experience will be invaluable as the Company embarks on the next phase of its strategy to produce downstream nickel products for the lithium-ion battery industry.”

“Our leadership team is very excited to continue to build and grow in a way that elevates the experience of our shareholders and creates optimal solutions for both the near term and long term as we develop Ta Khoa into a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business.”

With an expanded management group in place, plus some serious local knowledge, Blackstone’s board is evidently closely evaluating support for a revival of its mothballed operation in Vietnam underpinned by scoping study numbers showing a more than respectable 45 per cent internal rate of return.

Interestingly, the scoping study might just be the tip of the iceberg with the existing mill surrounded by a swag of high-grade massive sulphide veins, or “MSVs”. This presents both an upstream and down-stream processing opportunity to produce a precursor product for sale into the burgeoning lithium-ion battery manufacturing industry, much of which sits just over the border in China.

Blackstone’s Ta Khoa Nickel-PGE project is located around 160km east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam. The project occupies a strategic position over one of Asia’s richest nickel terranes, hosting two distinct styles of mineralisation namely MSVs and larger tonnage, disseminated sulphide ore systems. The company’s tenure stretches over more than 15km of strike of the Ta Khoa district and takes in 25 recognised nickel prospects.

The company’s maiden resource over the deposit weighs in at a hefty 44.3 million tonnes at 0.52 per cent nickel containing 229,000 tonnes of nickel.

Importantly, most of this resource sits in the coveted “indicated” category, adding an extra level of confidence to the study and providing the feed for the restart of the proposed mining operation.

The start-up of operations will likely be the primary focus of the new team, following electric vehicle mogul and Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s plea to the nickel industry recently, saying:

“Wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel….”

“Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time, if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.”

With drilling continuing across the Ta Khoa project in Vietnam and its feasibility study well underway, Blackstone Minerals appears to be powering ahead in pursuit of one of Musk’s purportedly giant contracts on offer as it positions itself to supply a growing consortium of lithium-ion battery manufacturers throughout Asia.


Is your ASX listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au


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