• Firetail test work proves that conventional high pressure acid leaching can achieve up to 97% nickel recoveries at Mt Slopeaway project in QLD
  • HPAL also achieves strong cobalt and manganese recoveries
  • Atmospheric leaching offers lower cost alternative production route
  • Preparation for Phase 2 drilling to confirm and extend resource underway


Any future development of Firetail’s Mt Slopeaway nickel-cobalt-manganese project in Queensland is likely to be straightforward after preliminary testwork achieved 96% recovery using a traditional nickel laterite flowsheet.

The 188.5km2 Mt Slopeaway project sits within the Marlborough region of central Queensland, a known lateritic nickel province, with mining occurring in the 1970s and 1980s extracting most economic nickel ores known at that time.

It has an existing inferred resource of 4Mt grading 1% nickel, 0.2% cobalt and 1% manganese based on historical drilling and is close to road, rail, port and smelter infrastructure.

Nickel-cobalt-manganese mineralisation is present within the laterite profile with the developed geological model indicating that a nickel-cobalt-manganese nodule layer is present at the base of the limonite section.

Phase 1 drilling carried out by Firetail Resources (ASX:FTL) returned assays that exceeded historical nickel and cobalt results, which served to confirm the historical resource.


Test work shows strong recoveries

Preliminary metallurgical test work with all four samples demonstrated excellent amenability for nickel and cobalt recovery using commercial leaching techniques.

High pressure acid leach tests achieved recoveries of >96% nickel from the ferricrete, laterite and serpentinite samples with ferricrete silica returning 82% recovery.

Adding interest, cobalt extraction was highest for laterite (96%) and ferricrete (95%), still high for ferricrete silica (87%) but significantly lower for serpentinite (58%) though this is mitigated by the low head grade of cobalt in serpentinite.

Manganese extraction rates are also high, ranging from 53% to 96%, though this necessitates a manganese removal stage ahead of the production of a mixed hydroxide precipitate to avoid contamination as manganese precipitates in the same range as nickel and cobalt.

Firetail Resources (ASX:FTL)
Extractions in HPAL (250 degrees C). Pic: Supplied (FTL).

Furthermore, the testwork has shown that serpentinite and ferricrete lithology is amendable to atmospheric leaching techniques, offering the company with a lower cost alternative production route.

“The results of the testwork are very positive, in particular given the program is early-stage and encompasses only initial sighter testing with no optimisation of reagent additions,” executive chairman Brett Grosvenor said.

“The high extractions achieved in this preliminary work provide us with validation of the ongoing exploration program and these results give Firetail a solid foundation for our continued activities aimed at proving up this asset.

“Firetail’s strategy with the Mt Slopeaway project include increasing the classification and size of the existing 4Mt mineral resource.

“The extension of our exploration permit gives us the opportunity to continue advancing our exploration work on site, and we appreciate the support of the Queensland government in exploring for these critical minerals.”


Preparation starting for Phase 2 drilling

Firetail is now preparing to launch a much larger Phase 2 drill program to both confirm and expand the Mt Slopeaway resource.

It plans to drill 62 reverse circulation and diamond drill holes along several east-west oriented fence lines to increase confidence in the resource and test possible resource extensions via step-out drilling.

All proposed access tracks and collar locations have been ground-truthed by GPS and marked up for ground clearance works once relevant site-specific Environmental Authority has been obtained and cultural heritage and biodiversity surveys are completed.

Target generation work is also underway through fieldwork, ongoing review of historical data and geological context that underpins potential for further laterite nickel and cobalt resources across and beyond the company’s EPM 26816 and EPM 26848 tenements.




This article was developed in collaboration with Firetail Resources, 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.