Blackstone Minerals’ aggressive drilling campaign continues across its Ta Khoa nickel-PGE project in northern Vietnam. The company has launched into diamond drilling at Ban Khoa, 1.5km north of its Ban Phuc operation, as it chases down new sulphide targets lit up by its geophysical team. Drilling also continues at King Cobra and Ban Chang in the wake of the company’s recently tabled scoping study.
Blackstone Minerals’ aggressive campaign of drilling continues across its Ta Khoa nickel-PGE project in northern Vietnam. The company has now kicked off diamond drilling at Ban Khoa, around 1.5km north of its Ban Phuc operation, as it chases down a wealth of new sulphide targets lit up by its in-house geophysical team.
The Ban Koa target is hosted by an ultramafic intrusion which appears to be geologically similar to the company’s flagship Ban Phuc deposit, making it an attractive target for ongoing exploration.
The Ban Phuc deposit was originally mined for its high-grade massive sulphide content, producing close to one million tonnes of ore at 2.4 per cent nickel and 1 per cent copper between 2013 and 2016.
Blackstone’s subsequent exploration has defined an immense accumulation of disseminated sulphide at Ban Phuc, weighing in at 44.3 million tonnes at 0.52 per cent nickel, in addition to a new massive sulphide discovery adjacent to the deposit at King Cobra. The company is now looking for a potential repeat of this deposit, less than 2km to the north at Ban Khoa.
Drilling by previous explorers has already returned wide intercepts of nickel mineralisation at Ban Khoa, including 33.2m at 0.76 per cent nickel, hosting 15m at 1.03 per cent nickel from 174.5m and 58.3m at 0.52 per cent nickel, containing 5.6m at 1.03 per cent nickel from 197.6m.
These previous drill results alone provide a strong incentive for the company to jump back into drilling, however, with the advantage of modern geophysics, Blackstone has gained a technological edge in targeting its maiden drilling program across the Ban Khoa target.
“We are very excited to commence exploration at Ban Khoa. Based on geological similarities and historical results, we believe it has the potential to deliver similar results to Ban Phuc. The geology at Ban Khoa is relatively well-understood given the historic drillings and we have refined our targets using modern geophysics. Exploration success here could add meaningful inventory, extend mine life and improve the economics demonstrated in our recently completed scoping study.”
“We continue to systematically test our 25 MSV prospects and with our in-house geophysics crew and Blackstone-owned drill rigs, we can cost effectively explore this globally significant nickel sulfide district using modern geophysical techniques. We see potential to increase annual nickel production from the Ta Khoa Nickel-Cu-PGE project through targeting high-grade MSV to complement the base load nickel sulfide feed from the Ban Phuc DSS and King Cobra discovery zone.”
Blackstone’s Ta Khoa Nickel-PGE project is located 160km east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam. The project occupies a strategic holding over one of Asia’s richest nickel terranes, hosting two distinct styles of mineralisation - high-grade massive nickel sulphide veins, or “MSV” and bulk tonnage, disseminated sulphide, or “DSS” ore systems.
The company’s tenure extends over more than 15km of strike of the Ta Khoa district and takes in more than 25 recognised nickel prospects. Exploration through 2020 has identified a number of high-grade MSV targets through the project area including the prospects at Ban Chang, King Cobra and the company’s new discovery at Viper.
However, most importantly, the company has recently tabled its scoping study for the development of the project. The study highlighted the potential of the operation to take on downstream processing which should produce a robust nickel-cobalt-manganese, or “NCM” precursor product suitable for use by lithium-ion battery manufacturers.
Downstream processing represents an innovative value-add proposition for the developing project and a potential coup for the company should it come to fruition.
Blackstone’s scoping study estimated the reborn Ta Khoa operation would have an initial 8.5-year mine life producing around 12,700 tonnes of nickel per annum, with a percentage of the concentrate product to be used at a nearby facility to produce the NCM precursor.
Scoping also delivered a robust set of figures, estimating a pre-tax, net present value in excess of $1 billion with estimated cash flows over the life of mine in the order of $1.7 billion, or $200 million a year.
The company’s ongoing drilling program is designed to continue building the Ta Khoa resource inventory. There is also the potential addition of high-grade massive sulphide ores which will likely enhance the economics of the tabled scoping study and any developing operation.
Blackstone has recently purchased a seventh drill rig to expedite drilling across the Ta Khoa terrane. With rigs already in play at King Cobra, Ban Chang and Ta Cuong, the company is now set to open drilling on a fourth front at Ban Khoa.
The company is drilling up a storm in Vietnam and continues to build on the success of its 2020 exploration program. Armed with a robust scoping study, Blackstone has laid a solid foundation as it refines its plans for the Ta Khoa development into 2021.
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