Blackstone Minerals has recommenced mining at the company’s per cent owned Ta Khoa nickel project in northern Vietnam and has plans to complete around 1,000m of development through the Ban Phuc disseminated orebody. The company is also gearing up to recommission the Ban Phuc nickel concentrator to produce two batches of nickel concentrate for use in the Ta Khoa refinery piloting programs.
ASX-listed Blackstone Minerals has recommenced mining at the company’s 90 per cent owned Ta Khoa nickel project in northern Vietnam and has plans to complete around 1,000 metres of development through the Ban Phuc disseminated orebody, generating nickel ore typical of the life of mine plant feed. The company is also geared up to recommission the Ban Phuc Nickel Concentrator to produce two batches of nickel concentrate for use in the Ta Khoa refinery piloting programs.
The company plans to use a combination of Australian and Vietnamese mining professionals and operators in the project which will deliver the first batch of concentrate to Perth for treatment by ALS Laboratories in
the first phase piloting program. A second batch of ore will be stored and processed for use in the second phase pilot plant which will be built in Son La in 2022.
Blackstone owns a 90 per cent interest in the Ta Khoa nickel-copper-platinum group element project located 160 kilometres west of Hanoi in the Son La Province of Vietnam. It includes the Ban Phuc nickel mine recently built to Australian standards which is currently under care and maintenance, but successfully operated as a mechanised underground mine from 2013 to 2016. In October 2020, the company finalised a scoping study which investigated mining the Ban Phuc disseminated nickel sulphide ore body and the construction of a downstream refinery.
Blackstone has been granted approval to recommence mining activities this month as part of its ongoing development of the Ta Khoa project and work will involve completion of approximately 1,000m of lateral development extending through the middle of the Ban Phuc disseminated sulphide resource. Multiple cross cuts are planned from the main development drive to provide access to a wide distribution of ore zones.
All the ore produced from the mining program will be processed through the existing 450 kilotonne per annum Ban Phuc concentrator. Blackstone has finalised studies to temporarily de-rate the existing plant’s capacity to suit the requirements of the pilot programs.
Additionally, the company has recently refurbished the Ban Phuc concentrator and the crushing circuit was recommissioned just last month in November 2021, with ore commissioning planned for the mill and flotation circuit in January 2022. Blackstone plans to treat the disseminated ore in multiple campaigns with the first parcel of ore to be treated in a semi-batch manner. Approximately 10 tonnes of 8 per cent nickel concentrate will be shipped to ALS in Perth for use in the phase 1 piloting program. The pilot campaign will treat approximately 10 tonnes of Ban Phuc disseminated sulphide concentrate and 10 tonnes of concentrate sourced from third party feed suppliers. The resulting 20 tonnes of concentrate feed will average 10 per cent nickel and will be fed through several campaigns.
Following the first campaign, several grander campaigns will be used to test the milling and flotation performance of the Ban Phuc disseminated sulphide and generate nickel concentrate for further large-scale piloting use. The concentrate will be bagged and stored in containers for treatment through the Phase 2 pilot plant in Vietnam.
Blackstone has also purchased an upstream pilot plant capable of treating 250kg per hour. During the principal campaigns, multiple trials will be conducted through the pilot facility to optimise flotation parameters and test pilot versions of key process equipment.
The company is in early discussions with EPCM Contractors about the development of a phase 2 pilot plant which will be built as a 1:25 scale version of a single Ta Khoa refinery train and will process 1 tonne per hour of concentrate. The phase 2 plant will be used to generate commercial quantities of nickel concentrate aligned to customer specifications and for further de-risking of the commercial plant development plan.
Blackstone sees Ta Khoa as a district scale nickel, copper and platinum group element play. Its landholdings already boast a hefty nickel sulphide deposit at Ban Phuc and through its exploration it has continued to hit nickel sulphides at several other prospects within the tenure. Scott Williamson, Blackstone’s Managing Director, said: “The recommencement of mining activity is an important milestone for the Company, and the speed at which approvals were secured is a testament to the expertise and relationships our team has on the ground in Vietnam. The mining program will provide significant quantities of disseminated ore which will be processed at the existing Ban Phuc Nickel Concentrator and subsequent pilot plants. The opportunity to treat this quantity of ore de-risks both the upstream and downstream business unit development strategies.”
In March 2020 the nickel price hit a COVID19 inspired trough of around US$11,000 a tonne and in more recent times it has broken the US$20,000 a tonne mark after well and truly shaking off its COVID19 shackles.
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