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Blackstone Minerals focused on battery metals of nickel and cobalt as well as gold

The first drill hole at the Little Gem prospect in Canada assayed up to 3% cobalt and 44 g/t gold.
graph showing increasing global cobalt deficit
Projected global cobalt deficit to 2025

Blackstone Minerals Ltd (ASX:BSX) is one of many companies striving to meet increasing demand for battery metals, adding cobalt in Canada to its gold and nickel assets in Western Australia.

The company listed on the ASX in January 2017 after raising $3.5 million in its initial public offering (IPO) under a tight capital structure.

Its primary focus was exploring gold and nickel assets in Western Australia before it acquired the Little Gem prospect in British Columbia.

 

Initial drilling at Little Gem delivered strong cobalt and gold results, assaying 4.3 metres at 1% cobalt and 15 g/t gold, including 1.1 metres at 3% cobalt and 44 g/t gold.

These world-class grades quickly changed Blackstone’s focus and it began to model Little Gem as a potential primary cobalt mine with gold as a by-product.

READ: Blackstone Minerals shares spike on cobalt-gold discovery

 

Little Gem is within a prolific mineralised region of British Columbia

 

Little Gem’s geology is analogous to the Bou-Azzer primary cobalt mine in Morocco, which is one of the world’s only operating primary cobalt mines.

Bou-Azzer’s ore bodies are near the contact of serpentinite and diorite, which reflects the geological setting seen at Little Gem.

Blackstone has recently announced four intercepts with economic grades for cobalt and gold, and has five assays still pending.

The company also holds several promising prospects in proximity to Little Gem.

Stand-out among peers

Blackstone’s peers in a similar range of market capitalisation generally have cobalt grades around or under 1%.

Blackstone is capitalised at around $18 million.

The company is continuing its drilling programs to further define Little Gem’s geology and eventually estimate an economic resource.

Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said: “What we’re looking for will be something that’s an underground mine; it will have a small footprint; it will be low cap-ex; it will have quick timeframes into production; and good economic payback.

“Because we’re dealing with very high grades we won’t need large tonnages and [we] can mine very efficiently in an underground scenario with small tonnes.”

 

Potential shared processing facility in BC

Blackstone is in early discussions regarding a potential shared processing facility if Blackstone is to find an ore body worth mining at Little Gem.

Williamson said: “We’re working with the owners of the Bralorne mine, and potentially working together to build the facility.

“They have a facility planned for processing and it will be very similar to the facility that we would require for Little Gem.”

Shifting cobalt supply from DRC

The company believes there is a supply issue in the cobalt market with more than 60% of global supply sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Growth in supply will also come from the central African country with several large companies such as Glencore, Randgold and China Molybdenum operating and developing projects there.

Williamson said: “A lot of battery manufacturers are focused on sourcing conflict-free, ethical cobalt and are not interested in the DRC broadly as a jurisdiction they would like to access for their supply.”

Little Gem’s location in mining-friendly British Columbia could be advantageous as a potential major source of high-grade cobalt for the burgeoning battery metals sector.

Exploring for nickel-gold

Blackstone is also drilling for gold and nickel sulphides at its Silver Swan South project in Western Australia’s Goldfields region.

Second phase aircore drilling at the Black Eagle prospect at Silver Swan South in March intersected gold mineralisation and extensive basement geochemical anomalism.

Results included 10 metres at 3.2 g/t gold from 68 metres within 15 metres at 2.2 g/t from 64 metres.

 

READ: Blackstone Minerals hits high-grade gold at Eastern Goldfields project

This emerging discovery is 8 kilometres along strike from the plus-5 million ounce Kanowna Belle Gold Mine of Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX:NST).

Silver Swan South is also along trend to the south of the Silver Swan nickel deposit, which has produced 166,000 tonnes of nickel.

The project area contains komatiite units similar in age and geochemistry to the Silver Swan host.

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