SOARING prices for nickel should be the catalyst to get some overlooked nickel assets out of the bottom drawer and onto the exploration agenda, according to a newcomer to the nickel industry in Western Australia (WA). Minotaur Exploration managing director Andrew Woskett says the 2014 price hike for nickel is a rare window of opportunity in the nickel space to relook at large and untapped nickel sulphide prospects.
Nickel has witnessed a price surge since early this year from around US$6.50 per pound to be holding around US$9 or US$20,000 a tonne. The surge, underpinned by Indonesia’s decision to ban nickel exports in favour of value-adding upstream processing, saw LME prices hit a mid-May high of US$21,200 per tonne. It has been predicted prices could surge past $30,000 by next year.
Addressing the Resources Investment Symposium in Broken Hill, Andrew Woskett revealed that the upward trajectory of prices had encouraged Minotaur to assess the unrealized value inherent in extensive nickel sulphide prospective tenements across WA’s Eastern Goldfields, acquired in the 2013 takeover of Breakaway Resources.
“If ever there is a case for dusting off the archives, we are a very good example of why it is worthwhile. Our move on Breakaway reflected our strategy to focus on copper and gold while providing a platform to push into WA and divest non-core assets.
“The nickel inventory in Breakaway’s portfolio was incidental to our acquisition of that explorer. Yet coincident with the startling nickel price hike, which appears to be holding investor appeal, Minotaur’s 2014 evaluation of Breakaway’s projects reveals a treasure trove.
“The tenements contain standout examples of high-grade massive sulphide nickel mineralization, known deposits and untested geochemical and coincident geophysical targets.”
Andrew Woskett said Minotaur was somewhat surprised at the breadth of available exploration opportunity and development potential in such obviously fertile ultramafic greenstone belts, as amply recorded by previous explorers. “The plethora of high-grade prospects defined historically, but not pursued mainly due to low metal prices, compelled us to start taking a serious look at the value now able to be realized from this portfolio which, we acknowledge, may not have been fully appreciated during the takeover process.
“The exploration opportunity shines especially brightly at Kambalda West where four historic mines produced 14,000 tonnes of nickel prior to 1993 and all mined deposits remain open at depth, but over which there had been no regional exploration since 2006 and no drilling since 2008. Just a couple of clicks away - high grade drill intersections reveal a deposit below an old underground mine. Significantly, Kambalda West’s nickel deposits are within granted mining leases which helps focus our attention. There is also a basket of high grade nickel hits elsewhere to follow up.”