Base metals explorer Superior Resources (ASX:SPQ) has cosied up to much bigger miner South32 (ASX:S32) and investors are loving it.

Shares rallied over 33 per cent today to an intra-day peak of 0.8c on the back of the news.

The $17.3 billion South32 — once a part of mining giant BHP (ASX:BHP) — has agreed to do some of the heavy lifting on Superior’s Nicholson zinc project in north-west Queensland.

Under stage one of the deal, South32 must fully fund an initial $2m or 4,000m of drilling within the first 12 months.

South32 can continue to stage two by sole-funding a further $4m on exploration within the following four years to earn a 70 per cent stake in the Nicholson project.

The project lies in the very prospective Carpentaria zinc province, which contains around 20 per cent of the world’s zinc inventory, according to Superior.

“The initial exploration program is targeting up to three tier-one equivalent, drill-ready Mount Isa style lead-zinc-silver targets, which we believe could be similar in size to the McArthur River and Century deposits,” Superior managing director Peter Hwang said.

The Nicholson Project is located 250km south-east of Glencore’s MacArthur River mine — one of the world’s largest zinc, lead and silver mines — and 110km north-north-west of New Century Resources’ (ASX:NCZ) Century mine.

Drilling is expected to start in June following the completion of an aboriginal cultural heritage survey.