Koreans plough $6.8m into Blackstone at 62% market premium
In an extraordinary move amid the Coronavirus inspired market carnage, Blackstone Minerals has managed to place $6.8m at a 62% premium to market to giant South Korean battery materials manufacturer, EcoPro. EcoPro owns the world’s 2ndlargest nickel-rich battery cathode manufacturer and the largest operation of its kind in Korea. EcoPro is looking to get exposure to Blackstone’s rapidly advancing Ta Khoa Nickel-Platinum project in Vietnam that comes gift wrapped with a modern but mothballed plant.
Blackstone will place 40 million shares to EcoPro at 17c a share, representing a 62% premium to the last traded share price. The placement delivers EcoPro a 17% holding in Blackstone making it the company’s number one shareholder. EcoPro will also appoint a director to the Blackstone board.
EcoPro and Blackstone are looking to develop a downstream nickel processing facility alongside its mining plant at Ta Khoa that can produce a nickel sulphate material that is suitable for battery manufacture.
Blackstone’s Ta Khoa nickel-platinum Group element project is 160 km west of Hanoi in Vietnam. The project includes the Ban Phuc underground mine and processing plant which operated between 2013-2016 – the mine was ‘mothballed’ due to falling nickel prices at the time but is in good condition.
The mothballed plant at Ta Khoa sets Blackstone apart from its nickel peers who are still exploring and have not yet even turned their minds to how they might fund a major infrastructure project.
With the capex for the plant pretty much already accounted for, Blackstone now has the luxury of going downstream and EcoPro and its subsidiary, EcoPro BM, looks to be the perfect partner given their sizeable battery cathode material operation.
Blackstone’s exploration at Ta Khoa has identified new zones of near surface disseminated and massive nickel sulphide mineralisation. The company is aiming to deliver a maiden resource for the project in the third quarter of this year whilst it also examins options to restart the Ban Phuc concentrator. Management is also expecting to deliver a scoping study for the JV downstream nickel processing facility in the same time frame – setting up a busy few months ahead.
Blackstone’s Managing Director, Scott Williamson said:
“We are pleased to announce this investment of $6.8m at a premium which strengthens our alliance with EcoPro. Our Ta Khoa Nickel-PGE Project has the potential to deliver the critical raw materials required for EcoPro’s cathode manufacturing to meet the demand from the imminent electric vehicle (EV) revolution. We look forward to working towards the next stage of our partnership to develop the downstream processing facility in northern Vietnam.”
The magnitude and scope of EcoPro’s investment into Blackstone speaks to the quality of the project and acumen of the management team. It is an outstanding achievement given the headwinds in global markets and delivers Blackstone the capital to rapidly move Ta Khoa towards production.
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