Explorer Broken Hill Prospecting is extending an olive branch to spin-out company and JV partner Cobalt Blue to end a dispute over custody of the Thackaringa cobalt project.

The relationship soured in October, when Cobalt Blue (ASX:COB) refused to rush final feasibility studies on its Thackaringa cobalt project in NSW to meet a mid-2019 deadline — forfeiting the chance to grab full ownership of the project from its JV partner Broken Hill (ASX:BPL).

Instead, COB will remain 70 per cent owner of Thackaringa, with BPL owning the other 30 per cent.

The agreement mandates that the company holding the largest JV interest — which is Cobalt Blue — must act as interim manager until a new project manager is appointed, COB told investors.

But BPL says COB’s position as manager of the project under the JV has now ceased — and any project work done without its approval “remain at the sole risk and cost of Cobalt Blue”.

“All attempts by BPL to arrange a meeting between joint venturers to discuss the appointment of an independent professional manager of the Thackaringa project have been ignored,” it said.

According to COB, a Thackaringa Joint Venture (TJV) management committee meeting on Friday last week discussed — but did not propose — any resolution to appoint a new JV manager.

Broken Hill is also disputing that the TJV “discussed and approved” work programs at the meeting, including a drilling campaign currently being conducted on site.

Cobalt Blue wanted approvals for Thackaringa feasibility study work programs and budgets totalling $28.6m out to June 2020.

Now, BPL has indicated that it wants to get Thackaringa “back on track”, BPL chairman Trangie Johnson said.

In a letter to shareholders today, Mr Johnson proposed a four step plan, including:

  • Appointing a respected, independent project manager;
  • Correcting “deficiencies” in the pre-feasibility study (PFS) released last July;
  • Jointly determining the scope of the next stage of the project; and
  • Using cash resources effectively and to “live within our means”.

“COB’s PFS, despite its apparent deficiencies, confirmed our belief that the Thackaringa cobalt project has the potential to become a world-class cobalt producer,” Mr Johnson said.

“By adopting our plan, we can overcome recent disagreements and place the project firmly back on the path to development.”