Altamin’s goal of becoming Europe’s next battery metals producer is no pipe dream – it’s an achievable objective already underpinned by the Aussie-listed multitasker’s economic Gorno lead-zinc project in Italy.

And it’s a vision demonstrably supported by its shareholders who took up 85% of its February two for five entitlement offer, adding some $6m to further advance its flagship project towards development.

But Gorno’s lead-zinc opportunity is but one arrow in Altamin’s (ASX:AZI) diverse Italian quiver.

The company also holds the cobalt-nickel-copper-silver Punta Corna project and has its eyes on two copper projects as well as one geothermal lithium brine project (adjacent to Vulcan Energy’s new Italian licences).


Cobalt nickel goodness

Punta Corna, located in Piedmont, northern Italy, has all the makings of a very worthy second project for the company.

The project consists of the Punta Corna and Balme exploration licences that cover the historic Usseglio cobalt mining area with stacked hydrothermal veins and mineralisation defined over more than 2km of strike.

Historical bulk sampling revealed an average diluted grade of between 0.6% cobalt and 0.7% cobalt over an average vein width of 2m (high grades from a global perspective).

Managing director Geraint Harris told Stockhead that there was no doubt historical production was high-grade – as the mined cobalt was used as a pigment.

“We can see what was left behind on the sidewalls and what was treated as waste, and that’s 0.2% to 0.3% cobalt, which is economically viable now,” he added.

And cobalt isn’t the only mineral on offer at Punta Corna’s riches, the project is also bursting with nickel, copper and silver with grab sampling by the company yielding results such as:

  • 5% cobalt, 6.5% nickel, 0.3% copper and 11 grams per tonne (g/t) silver;
  • 1% cobalt, 0.4% nickel, 0.2% copper and 38g/t silver; and
  • 2% copper, 450g/t silver.


Add it up

When the associated nickel, copper and silver credits are considered, the in-situ cobalt equivalent grade approximately doubles.

Comparative studies have also indicated that the project is similar to the Bou Azzer cobalt, nickel, and gold deposits in Morocco, the world’s highest-grade cobalt mine.

Punta Corna also benefits from existing infrastructure including a hydro-electric facility and is just 65km from the industrial city of Turin and Italvolt’s gigafactory which is under development.

Altamin punta corna cobalt
Samples from Punta Corna. Pic: Supplied


Exploration plans

Altamin is now waiting on the drill licence to be awarded, which Harris says will allow the company to start an extensive drill program on three target areas with evidence for a lot of veining.

“We are planning to stand off to the side of a series of veins and then drill through multiple veins with each hole,” Harris explained.

“That’s really exciting because if we can get some interesting drill hits, there is the potential for a primary cobalt deposit in the centre of Europe.

“There’s $30bn, if not more, going into battery developments at the moment in Europe. So if we can prove-up a metal endowment in this area, it is going to allow us to really have a very exciting suite of options on how we finance the next stages.”

Lithium continues to be a hot commodity as demand for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow and prices have grown to match with Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) boss Ken Brinsden noting recently that spodumene lithium concentrate prices that have increased 1150% in a little over 18 months from U$400/t to US$5000/t while producer Alkem has suggested that June quarter average price for lithium carbonate could top US$35,000 per tonne.

Altamin is clearly aware of this massive potential and has recently applied for exploration licences over 3,240 hectares in the southern half of Italy’s premier geothermal field at Cesano, about 50km north of Rome, an area which is highly prospective for lithium in geothermal brines.

“We are very excited about this prospect as initial geochemical indications are for globally significant lithium in brine concentrations and also high geothermal gradients, potentially to power the processing,” Geraint noted.

“We are of course not alone in liking the prospectivity, as our EL application is adjacent to Vulcan Energy Resources recently granted licence.

“Of course, if we are granted the EL, the work can start quickly in earnest and we will be able to access the historical archives to seek information on geology well logs, hopefully the chemical composition of the brines and possibly get some indication of well characteristics – so it’s a very exciting prospect for Altamin.”


Bringing brownfields copper back to life

Altamin also has applied for exploration licences over the old Monte Bianco and Corchia underground copper mines, one of which had production head grades of about 7% copper while the other ranged between 3% and 5% copper.

Monte Bianco has an extra prize in the form of manganese mineralisation cap that is mostly separate from the copper ore body.

Harris also noted that if these mines were in Australia or some other more active mining areas, they would have already been explored and put into production.

Both feature well-understood volcanogenic massive sulphide-style mineralisation similar to that found in Cyprus or Sandfire’s DeGrussa project.

“Italy is looking to take its place within the EU as a producer of important raw materials for the surging de-carbonisation demand, which is only just starting,” he explained.

“Italy has had many historic mines containing these critical metals, but in this modern era the country has not been considered internationally as an exploration or metal mining destination.

“Many foreigners think of Italy as just a tourist destination, not realising the huge strength of its manufacturing sector and the important role that the extraction of industrial minerals play in the economy.

“The environmental and safety governance is transparent and are second to none, therefore in our view once you understand the landscape Italy is the perfect location to build a green metals business that can be best in class for the 21st century’s requirements.

There is no certainty on the timing of grant, but if granted, the company will have quite a lot of historical information to delve into and look at it in a different way, followed by a zero environmental impact exploration campaign.

“Some of the sites host significant metal leakage into the environment created by legacy operations, nothing has been done about this for years.

“Therefore, if granted we would also partner with local regulators and institutes to assess opportunities to clean up waste rock dumps contaminated with remnant copper mineralisation to clear up the environment and potentially make some copper.

“The metal potential in Italy – It’s just been ignored,” Harris said “Until now.”

This article was developed in collaboration with Altamin, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.