Panther Metals has achieved more than the average small cap in its first year as an ASX-listed company, having unearthed a significant nickel-cobalt resource as well as serving up multiple bonanza grade gold hits.

 As junior Aussie explorer Panther Metals (ASX:PNT) prepares to mark its first year as a publicly listed company, we take a look at just how much it has achieved in such a short space of time.

While many explorers come to the ASX long before they’re even remotely close to drilling, Panther was ready to spin the drill bit from the minute it lit up the boards.

The company was prepared with an aggressive exploration plan in place to hit its first two years hard, including its first three primary targets of the Coglia nickel-cobalt project and the Burtville East and Ironstone gold projects, all located in the Tier 1 mining district of Laverton in the Western Australian gold fields.

Panther was “spoiled for choice” with multiple prospective targets across its vast landholding and has marked several milestones since making its debut.

The most significant of which was delivering a bigger-than-expected maiden resource at the Coglia nickel-cobalt project of 70.6Mt at 0.7% nickel and 460 parts per million (ppm) cobalt for 476,000t of nickel and 32,200t of cobalt from just 6,000m of reverse circulation drilling.

The new resource was over 40% larger than the 30-50Mt JORC exploration target the company initially outlined in its prospectus and was released before the second half of 2022 target promised at IPO.

This was thanks to some impressive high-grade nickel and cobalt intercepts, including peak grades of up to nearly 4% nickel and 7,900ppm cobalt.

Panther also has plenty of blue-sky potential on the gold front, with the company continuing uncovering bonanza grade and visible gold at its Burtville East prospect, part of the Merolia project.

In September, the company reported a top hit of 1m at 62.8 grams per tonne (g/t) gold from 91m from within a broader 10m at 7.15g/t from 84m.

This is the same prospect that in mid-July threw up a bonanza hit of 1m at 478g/t from just 28m from within a broader intercept of 15m at 54g/t from 27m that defined a new shallow and broad high-grade gold zone.

Humble beginnings  

Were it not for a COVID-enforced extension to a stay in Australia by Dr Kerim Sener – then chairman of London-listed Panther Metals PLC – the emergence of Panther Metals Ltd may never have come to be.

When a visit to the in-laws was extended by the pandemic, Dr Sener started to explore his project options locally. Over a coffee with Auralia Mining Consulting co-founder and chairman Daniel Tuffin, the wheels were set in motion, and Panther’s highly prospective portfolio was assembled.

Nickel hotting up

Nickel is the place to be right now, with the global push to electrify and decarbonise driving significant growth in electric vehicles and the battery market.

Panther is strongly leveraged to the critical battery metal, which Macquarie expects to trade between $US9 and $US11/lb until at least 2027.

Mining advisory firm RFC Ambrian estimates that between 0.7 and 1.1Mt of additional class 1 nickel in the form of nickel sulphate will be required to satisfy the growth of the battery market by 2030.

This surging demand has brought private equity players back to the table as nickel mergers and acquisitions activity gains further momentum.

Busting the nickel laterite myth

But with macroeconomic factors like the Russia-Ukraine conflict in play and a substantial underinvestment in new nickel projects in recent years, supply is tightening and prices are rising.

While nickel sulphides have for long been in high demand, nickel laterites are now gaining in popularity with new advances made in processing and massive demand requiring all available resources.

As Ardea Resources (ASX:ARL) managing director Andrew Penkethman said in a recent Paydirt interview: “Laterites have been developed successfully in many other jurisdictions around the world, and they also will be in Australia.

“We’re seeing with the battery revolution that it’s just not going to be possible without laterites being developed. We need every known resource developed to ensure there’s sufficient battery mineral supply.”

Historically, nickel laterite ores were processed using the high-cost high pressure acid leach (HPAL) method.

But Queensland Pacific Metals (ASX:QPM) has created a new environmentally friendly process for extracting nickel, cobalt and other precious metals from laterite ore.

Key features of this new DNi Process™ include >98% nitric acid recycling, no tailings dam requirements and minimal waste, which make it a less expensive process that requires shorter construction times compared to the HPAL process.

And the major car manufacturers are already knocking down the door to secure nickel laterite supply.

QPM revealed in October it had locked in a long-term strategic collaboration with General Motors, which agreed to inject up to $US69m ($103m) to take an equity stake in QPM and secure the right to purchase all uncommitted nickel and cobalt sulphate produced in the first 15 years of phase one of the company’s TECH project.

This story was developed in collaboration with Panther Metals, 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.