Special Report: The purchase of a third diamond drill rig means Blackstone can cost effectively accelerate drilling at the Ban Chang nickel prospect, where it has reported a slew of significant results.

Blackstone’s (ASX:BSX) Ta Khoa nickel-copper-PGE project in northern Vietnam includes a modern nickel mine and processing plant, which has been under care and maintenance since 2016 due to falling nickel prices.

While previous project owners primarily focused their mining and exploration efforts on the massive sulphide veins (MSV) at the Ban Phuc deposit, Blackstone has been successfully exploring both MSV and disseminated sulphide (DSS) targets throughout the wider project area.

One of these prospects, Ban Chang, is proving to be much bigger than expected.

In early July, the second of four holes drilled hit mineralisation – including 9.8m grading 1.45 per cent nickel, 0.9 per cent copper, 0.08 per cent cobalt with platinum group element (PGE) credits from a depth of 57.05m — more than 1km away from the first hole.

This intercept included a higher-grade interval of 1.85m at 3.59 per cent nickel, 1.18 per cent copper and 0.2 per cent cobalt.

And results are still pending for two maiden holes that intersected 1.2m of MSVs and 15.4m of nickel sulphide mineralisation respectively.

Owning and operating three diamond drill rigs substantially increases the amount of drilling Blackstone can undertake relative to other companies for the same amount of money.

The project developer now has an “all-in” diamond drilling cost of $US50/m at the Ta Khoa project — a ~60 per cent reduction in drilling costs relative to Australian industry averages.

This drilling blitz is part of an ongoing campaign to target regional MSVs as Blackstone aims to build its nickel resource inventory at Ta Khoa to supplement the flagship Ban Phuc maiden resource, which is on track for completion in Q3, 2020.

After completion of the maiden Ban Phuc resource this quarter, Blackstone will use the three rigs to complete another resource update ASAP.

It will drill additional targets later in 2020, extending the drilling program to beyond Ban Chang and throughout the 25 MSV targets:

“Blackstone has made rapid progress over the past few months and we are very excited about the potential of Ban Chang,” Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson says.

“Our latest assays have confirmed a new zone of high-grade mineralisation which was previously untested at Ban Chang East.

“As we work towards completing our scoping study this quarter, we have now purchased an additional diamond drill rig to ensure we can progress the project as rapidly as possible as we systematically test our 25 massive sulphide targets.”


The road to development

Blackstone has a big third quarter planned.

Both the maiden resource at Ban Phuc and a scoping study on the downstream processing facility at Ta Khoa will be announced in the next few months.

This scoping study will provide crucial details for joint venture partners to formalise the next stage of investment.

Blackstone Minerals has also kicked off all-important metallurgical testing on the Ban Phuc DSS deposit to develop a processing ‘flow sheet’ for a product suitable for the lithium-ion battery industry.

The company will investigate the potential to develop downstream processing infrastructure in Vietnam to produce a downstream nickel and cobalt product for Asia’s growing lithium-ion battery industry.

ROCKTALK: Is this a new dawn for nickel?


This story was developed in collaboration with Blackstone Minerals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This story does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.