Blackstone attracts Korea’s largest battery cathode producer in processing partnership
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Special Report: Blackstone has signed an MoU with a South Korean battery cathode manufacturer to investigate the development of a downstream processing facility at the Ta Khoa nickel project in Vietnam.
Finding a partner willing to help provide funding is one of the recognised routes to fast track development of resource projects.
Blackstone Minerals (ASX:BSX) has now taken the first step towards this option with the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea’s largest electric vehicle battery cathode manufacturer Ecopro BM.
Ecopro BM has indicated its willingness to enter into an alliance with the company on the downstream processing infrastructure for the Ta Khoa nickel project in Vietnam that will develop a suitable nickel, cobalt or battery mineral product for lithium-ion batteries.
This is in line with the company’s preference to maintain its 90 per cent interest in the mine and its associated nickel concentrator while opening up the downstream processing to a potential funding partner.
Ta Khoa is about 160km west of Hanoi and includes the Ban Phuc nickel mine that has a 450,000-tonne-per-annum concentrator that was built to Australian standards and is expected to require little work to bring online.
Ban Phuc was operated as a mechanised underground nickel mine from 2013 to 2016 and generated $US213m ($311.3m) in revenue during this period of falling nickel prices.
“We are pleased to announce an MoU with Korea’s largest cathode manufacturer,” managing director Scott Williamson said.
“Our Ta Khoa nickel project has significant potential to deliver the critical raw materials required for Ecopro’s cathode manufacturing process and meet the ever-increasing demand for high-nickel content cathodes driven by the imminent electric vehicle revolution.
“We look forward to finalising a formal agreement with Ecopro over the coming months. In the meantime, we continue the exploration and development of our flagship Ta Khoa nickel project in northern Vietnam.”
Battery manufacturers have found that adding nickel to their lithium-ion batteries increases their energy density, which allows them to store more power.
While just 5 per cent of nickel goes into batteries at this point, Williamson told Stockhead earlier this month that this could increase to almost 50 per cent of all nickel production in the future.
Blackstone aims to deliver a maiden resource for the Ban Phuc deposit in the coming months and investigate the potential to restart the existing Ban Phuc nickel concentrator.
It has also started a scoping study on a potential downstream processing facility at the project along with metallurgical testing of Ban Phuc ore with the goal of developing a flow sheet for products suitable for the lithium-ion battery industry.