District Scale: In May 2019, Blackstone Minerals Limited purchased far more than a project with an idled plant and a closed underground mine. The Ta Khoa project in Vietnam consists of a district with 23 prospects already defined, each of them having the potential to replicate the massive sulphide veins mined by the previous owner as well as discover much larger tonnage of disseminated sulphides such as the King Cobra Zone, to support a multi-decade operation at a higher throughput.
Exploration & Development Strategy: BSX pursues a two-fold strategy:
- Explore and delineate disseminated sulphides to build tonnes and nickel units to support a plant upgrade and long-life project
- Explore, drill test and develop massive and semi-massive sulphide veins to justify an early plant restart (and/or increase the overall resource grade in the context of an operation with a higher throughout). Positive drilling results have been reported on the first two prospects Ban Chang and Ban Khang/Ta Cuong
The strategy has been highly successful so far and BSX is intensifying the exploration programmes on various prospects thanks to its own geophysical team and six drill rigs including four owed by BSX. This report is focused on the exploration potential of the Ta Khoa project.
Results Driven Team: In a context of continued depressed nickel prices and in less than 18 months from the date of the Ta Khoa project purchase, the BSX team has delivered the following:
- A relatively cheap acquisition (about A$1.7 million in cash and shares) vs. US$136 million invested by the previous owner
- Good drill intercepts such as 45m @ 1.2% Ni and 60m @ 1.3% Ni
- A new discovery with the King Cobra Zone mineralisation
- The validation of two nearby prospects Ban Chang with the
- addition of the Viper Discovery Zone and Ban Khang
- An alliance with South Korea’s largest electric vehicle (EV) battery cathode manufacturer, Ecopro BM Co Limited (EcoPro, market cap ~US$1 billion). Ecopro is the world’s second largest and South Korea’s largest nickel-rich cathode materials manufacturer, it
- brings financial and technical support as well as being an off-taker
- A cornerstone institutional investment from Fidelity, validating BSX
- strategy and supporting its future development
- Successive capital raisings at higher share prices:
- 10 May 2019: 40 million shares at $0.05 for $2.0 million
- 23 Sep 2019: 30 million shares at $0.15 for $4.5 million
- 7 Apr 2020: 40 million shares at $0.17 (62% premium) for $6.8 million
- 11 Sep 2020: 42.8 million shares at $0.42 for $18 million
11. A market capitalisation increasing from A$7m to A$137m
12. A share price increasing from 6.4¢ to 43¢ (with a high at 54¢)
The additional funds and top shareholders (Ecopro & Fidelity) provides comfort in the development of the project beyond the imminent milestones:
- Q3 2020: a mineral resource in the order of 20-50 Mt @ 0.5-0.6% Ni
- Q3 2020: a scoping study with a likely open mining scenario, considering that the King Cobra discovery is shaping up as near
surface large scale disseminated nickel sulphide zone.
The project redevelopment will benefit from the brownfield nature of the project including a modern treatment plant, a fully permitted tailings storage facility and the financial, technical and regulatory supports from Ecopro, Fidelity and the Vietnamese government.