• MinRes to convert nickel plant in bid to deliver third Goldfields lithium processing facility
  • Perseus gains competition approval for OreCorp bid in Tanzania
  • Regis hit by wet weather, while Bannerman rises on uranium expansion plans


Well, well, well.

After months of innuendo about building a third lithium plant in the spodumene rich WA Goldfields region, Mineral Resources’ (ASX:MIN) boss Chris Ellison has pounced on an unloved nickel asset to snare the infrastructure he was after.

Poseidon Nickel (ASX:POS) is in a spot like a number of other WA nickel sulphide stocks, with prices smashed by rising Indonesian production causing sentiment for local players to crater.

It will nab $15 million for its secondary Lake Johnston operations and processing plant, which previously milled nickel from the Maggie Hays and Emily Ann deposits west of Norseman for Russia’s Norilsk before their sale to the formerly Andrew Forrest-founded and backed Poseidon.

Poseidon will still have its flagship Black Swan mine and concentrator near Kalgoorlie and Windarra project near Laverton.

The 1.5Mtpa Lake Johnston has a flotation circuit. That’s important for MinRes because it has fines material from its Mt Marion and Bald Hill operations that can only be processed using that method.

MinRes meanwhile will open the door to the development of third party and JV ores at projects where it has either taken an interest in the lithium rights – say for instance its deals with gold companies Dynamic Metals (ASX:DYM) and Pantoro (ASX:PNR) – or has a company level equity stake like Bill Beament’s Develop Global (ASX:DVP), owner of the nearby Pioneer Dome lithium project.


Permission to plan

Aside from improving recoveries, the float plant could open a new cheap source of material sitting in lithium tailing dams.

“We’re heading down the path with a big float down in that region. The idea of that is all of these little shareholdings we’re gathering up, I mean, I’m going to go out to the juniors, and we’re going to be able to offer them a tolling service, where we take some ownership of their deposit, and we toll the dirt, and we’ll be able to move that dirt,” Ellison said on MinRes’ H1 results call last month.

“And just to give you some context that I said earlier; processing spod is awfully tricky. It’s not like doing copper or zinc. I mean, all of that stuff’s really easy. This is really difficult. So there’s a certain percentage of the dirt that we put through dense media plants that just doesn’t perform, and it goes straight to tail.

“So all the Galaxy plant, Bald Hill, Mt Marion, those tails dams are full of product.

“You need flotation to get that out. And then a lot of these smaller projects that are sitting out there, they’ve got eight, 10, 12, 15 million tonnes, they will never be viable. You would never be able to support a plant. So we’ll be able to offer that service, and that’s where I’m heading shortly.”

As floated, ahem, that seems to have come to fruition. There’s no word on cost or how quickly it will get up and running at this stage, or what spodumene price will be needed to support it.

Spot prices are currently sitting at US$980/t according to Fastmarkets, though Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) sold a 5000t cargo of 5.5% Li2O product from its Pilgangoora mine for US$1106/t pre-auction via the Battery Material Exchange platform last week – US$1200/t at the 6% benchmark.

A similar auction sale by Albemarle could provide more transparency for spot prices next week. While prices have been weighed down by oversupply – especially from Chinese-operated lepidolite mines at home and in Africa – experts maintain the long-term fundamentals for lithium (a key component of the electric vehicle supply chain) are positive.

“We believe the fundamentals remain intact in the long term, and lithium miners may be well positioned to benefit,” Sprott’s Paul Wong and Jacob White said on Saturday.

“Albemarle Corporation, the world’s largest lithium miner, recently called current prices “unsustainable” and noted that prices must rise to meet long-term demand growth.

“Despite the weak current price environment, many lithium miners and other industries remain convinced of the need to produce tomorrow’s lithium. For example, oil and gas behemoth ExxonMobil Corporation affirmed in February that it is expanding into lithium and plans to bring its first lithium project online by 2027.”

There’s no doubt Ellison is bullish on lithium. But he’s also shrewd.

Lake Johnston is licensed to operate until 2041, reducing approvals timelines by around two years compared to building anew according to MinRes’ internal studies.


Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) share price today



Perseus throws shade at Silvercorp bid as OreCorp feud takes a turn

Perseus Mining has launched its strongest offensive since announcing a takeover bid for OreCorp (ASX:ORR), telling shareholders of the Tanzanian goldie they could end up with less of its flagship Nyanzaga project than they thought.

PRU says it has satisfied a key condition of its off-market 55c a share takeover, securing Tanzanian Fair Competition Commission approval on Friday.

But that only came after it agreed to up the Tanzanian Government’s stake from 16% to 20% in the 234,000ozpa Nyanzaga project, raising questions as to whether Tanzania had made the same request of Silvercorp.

Under the Silvercorp offer, unanimously recommended by the OreCorp board, the TSX-listed and Chinese focused precious metals producer would provide 19c a share in cash and a 0.0967 for 1 share issue to ORR investors.

OreCorp, which is yet to respond to Perseus’ latest supplementary bidder’s statement, had previously said the PRU proposal was not superior to Silvercorp’s offer “given the greater uncertainty” associated with it and that it did not enable shareholders to participate in the Nyanzaga development.

Notably, the fact PRU had not yet obtained FCC approval was a key consideration.

As of Thursday, Silvercorp’s bid had an implied value of 60c a share, according to Silvercorp a 9% premium over the $258m cash offer from PRU.

$2.8b-capped PRU is looking to diversify outside of West Africa, having built a US$642m cash war chest from the profitable operation of its Edikan, Sissingue and Yaoure mines in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.


Perseus Mining (ASX:PRU) share price today



Regis maintains guidance despite weather report

Regis Resources (ASX:RRL) has become the latest ASX gold miner drenched by WA’s big wet, with Duketon pounded with 110mm so far in March and its 30% owned Tropicana copping 310mm in just three days.

That’s over 50% of the annual average in well under a month.

It comes after Capricorn’s (ASX:CMM) Karlawinda and Gold Road’s (ASX:GOR) Gruyere fell prey to the same circumstances.

Duketon has performed to plan so far, though Tropicana has seen mining suspended and power supply disrupted, with open pit feed displaced by stockpiles and underground ore.

A supply road has been closed to Kalgoorlie, with processing on tenterhooks if consumables onsite are eaten up.

Regis says the March quarter will see gold production of 90,000-95,000oz, but it believes production for FY24 will ‘challenge’ the lower end of its guidance of 415,000-455,000oz at all in sustaining costs of $1995-2315/oz.


Regis Resources (ASX:RRL) share price today



It take two to Etango

And now to uranium, where Bannerman Energy (ASX:BMN) was up 6% early doors after a scoping study outlined its potential to expand the Etango project in Namibia.

The expansion could take the form of either a doubling of processing capacity from 8Mtpa to 16Mtpa, which would add US$325m to its capex bill but lift annual output from 3.5Mlbpa to 6.7Mlbpa.

Or it could involve a 12-year extension in the project’s mine life at 3.5Mlbpa. That would require no capex, but would have higher average life of mine AISC of US$45.30/lb vs US$42.50/lb for the larger development.

The project, part of around 60Mlb of uranium mining capacity that could be added by ASX listed miners before the end of the decade, will still be developed on the DFS base case of 8Mtpa.

But both CEO Gavin Chamberlain and exec chair Brandon Munro said the scoping study demonstrated Etango’s long term potential. Spot uranium prices ran as high as US$107/lb in January but have since calmed back down to US$83.38/lb on Numerco’s last assessment.

“I am delighted that we have more formally demonstrated the longer-term optionality delivered by our large-scale Etango uranium resource. While the XP (16Mtpa) and XT (27 year) cases are readily viable at our base case Etango-8 DFS price assumption of US$65/lb, their economics are clearly supercharged in higher price scenarios,” Munro said.

“As such, what the Scoping Study emphatically evidences is the significant underlying value residing in Etango’s huge in-ground leverage to, and scalability with, higher uranium price outlooks.

“The ability to enact either the XP or XT plans, post-delivery of the initial Etango-8 development, affords Bannerman substantial real option value across a range of long-term uranium price outcomes.”


Bannerman Energy (ASX:BMN) share price today


The materials sector lifted 0.21% despite iron ore prices falling beneath US$100/t on Friday, with copper and industrial stocks leading the gains as copper prices ran beyond US$9000/t.

Copper producers Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) and South32 (ASX:S32) were both higher along with IGO (ASX:IGO) – which has sizeable copper credits at its Nova nickel mine.

Mineral sands and rare earths miner Iluka Resources (ASX:ILU) was also up over 5%.


Monstars share prices today