Special Report: Exploration has kicked off at Ta Cuong, Blackstone Minerals’ (ASX:BSX) second high grade massive sulphide vein (MSV) prospect at the advanced Ta Khoa project in Vietnam.

Ta Khoa includes an existing modern nickel mine and processing plant, which has been under care and maintenance since 2016 due to falling nickel prices.

Previous project owners focused mining and exploration efforts primarily on the thin but high grade MSV at Ban Phuc deposit, where 975,000 tonnes were successfully mined from an average vein width of 1.3m and average grades of 2.4 per cent nickel and 1 per cent copper.

Blackstone is targeting MSV prospects similar to Ban Phuc.

Following the completion of a highly successful geophysics program, Blackstone’s geophysics crew is mobilising to the newly generated Ta Cuong MSV target.

Assaying of historic drill holes from Ta Cuong – which were previously unassayed — returned some significant results, including 0.6m at 1.95 per cent nickel, 4.47 per cent copper, 0.12 per cent cobalt and 0.66g/t PGE from 51.7m.

But this old drilling at Ta Cuong was not targeting electromagnetic (EM) plates and Blackstone’s geophysics crew will now use EM to refine the MSV targets at Ta Cuong for high impact drilling over the coming months.

Importantly, Ta Cuong is just the second high priority prospect within Blackstone’s portfolio of 25 MSV prospects to be systematically tested with modern techniques.

The exploration upside here is huge.

Based on geological similarities and historical results, Blackstone believes it has the potential to deliver similar results to Ban Chang, Blackstone Minerals’ Managing Director Scott Williamson says.

Recent drilling has demonstrated strong potential for a bulk underground mining scenario at Ban Chang, which could be significantly larger scale than the previously mined Ban Phuc mine.

“We anticipate the geophysics to better define drill targets, which we will immediately follow up with drilling,” Williamson says.

“We continue to systematically test our 25 MSV prospects and with our in‐house geophysics crew and Blackstone‐owned drill rigs, we can cost effectively explore this globally significant nickel sulfide district using modern geophysical techniques.

“We see potential to increase annual nickel production from the Ta Khoa Nickel‐Cu‐PGE project through targeting high‐grade MSV to complement the base load nickel sulfide feed to be potentially mined from the Ban Phuc DSS and King Cobra discovery zone.”

Blackstone Minerals’ Ta Khoa nickel-copper-PGE project in Vietnam.

The road to development

The current MSV drilling blitz is part of an ongoing campaign to build the nickel resource inventory at Ta Khoa, to supplement the flagship Ban Phuc maiden resource, which is on track for completion in the current quarter.

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.

Also due this quarter is a scoping study on the downstream processing facility at Ta Khoa, which 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.


This story was developed in collaboration with Blackstone, 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.