Blackstone Minerals Ltd (ASX:BSX) (FRA:B9S) has completed a positive scoping study which paves the way for continued progress with the development and restart of the Ta Khoa Nickel-Copper-PGE Project in Vietnam.
The study has positioned the Ta Khoa project in the country’s north to serve Asia’s growing demand for lithium-ion batteries with the company now progressing to the next phase of pre-feasibility studies.
Ta Khoa will comprise an open pit mine at the Ban Phuc Disseminated Sulphide (DSS), upstream processing and downstream processing to produce a precursor product.
The scoping study is an important milestone for Blackstone and an initial platform to build a mine-to-market nickel business in coming years with multiple upside opportunities to improve on study results.
Blackstone’s managing director Scott Williamson said: “The scoping study defines a project path that maximises economics, minimises environmental and social impacts, and offers a lasting legacy to the people in our local community.”
Ban Phuc resource
The study is based on a maiden Ban Phuc DSS indicated resource of 44.3 million tonnes at 0.52% nickel for 229,000 tonnes of nickel and an inferred resource of 14.3 million tonnes at 0.35% for 50,000 tonnes.
Annual production is estimated at around 12,700 tonnes of nickel over an 8.5-year project life.
There is upside potential from by-product credits, including copper, gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium along with other regional deposits and targets, including King Cobra Discovery Zone, Ban Chang, Ta Cuong and 25 untested massive sulphide vein (MSV) targets.
The study also estimates:
- Gross revenue of approximately US$3.3 billion (US$2.95 billion to US$3.6 billion);
- Net pre-tax cashflow of ~US$1.2 billion (US$1.03 billion to US$1.37 billion);
- Pre-production capital cost of ~US$314 million including contingency;
- Pre-tax cashflow of ~US$179 million per annum (US$155 million to US$210 million);
- Pre-tax NPV8% of ~US$665 million (US$550 million to US$780 million) and ~45% IRR (38% to 50% IRR); and
- Capital payback period of ~2.5 years.
Overall, the study outlines an economically robust nickel sulphide project to produce downstream nickel, cobalt and manganese (NCM) precursor products for the lithium-ion battery industry.
The downstream processing utilises existing well-tested technology while the downstream NCM precursor product significantly improves the payability of nickel - from ~70-80% to ~125-135% of LME metal prices.
PFS level studies
Williamson added: “Whilst we are pleased with the outcomes of this study, we will continue to expand our resource and increase our production potential in this exciting, and yet under-explored region of Vietnam and have commenced work on PFS level studies for the project.”
Blackstone’s strategy is underpinned by an unwavering focus on developing the Ta Khoa project.
Existing modern mine infrastructure at Ta Khoa offers the company a foundation to build a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business over the coming years.
The company aims to build one of the world’s first green nickel processing facilities to produce downstream nickel products for the lithium-ion battery industry.
Blackstone has the vision to build a world-class nickel mining centre supported by a downstream processing facility to be developed and operated over the coming years.
The Ta Khoa Nickel-Copper-PGE project is powered by South East Asia’s largest hydropower plant located nearby in the Son La Province.
Blackstone aims to set an example on how to build a green nickel mining business for the future demand coming from the rapid growth in nickel-rich cathode materials required to power the electric vehicle revolution.
The scoping study has been undertaken to determine the potential to restart the project and develop downstream processing infrastructure.
It is a preliminary technical and economic study of the potential viability of those projects based on low level technical and economic assessments (+/- 40% accuracy) that are not sufficient to support the estimation of ore reserves.
Further evaluation work and appropriate studies are required before Blackstone is in a position to estimate any reserves or to provide any assurance of an economic development case.