ASIAN Mineral Resources’ (AMR) subsidiary, Ban Phuc Nickel Mines (BPNM) has been awarded a mineral exploration licence which provides for exploration of nickel-copper mineralization over a large area around its operating Ban Phuc nickel mine. The licence provides BPNM with exclusive rights to explore 49.7sqkm in Son La province with the immediate focus being on targeted extensions to the operating mine.
The licence encompasses multiple high-priority targets already identified and well understood by BPNM through its extensive surface exploration program. Successful exploration would allow BPNM to apply for and obtain additional mining licences with no auction requirements.
The operating Ban Phuc mine and the exploration licence areas are within the Song Da rift zone. This zone has a geological setting which is strongly analogous to other major nickel sulphide camps, already supports two operating nickel mines - Ban Phuc and the Baimazhai mine 250km to the northwest and formed in the same geological event as Ban Phuc - and has numerous identified nickel occurrences.
The Ban Phuc project annually produces more than 6400 tonnes of nickel and 3200 tonnes of copper contained in concentrate, plus a cobalt by-product.
AMR’s CEO Evan Spencer says, “The award of the exploration licence is an exciting step in the company’s strategy to become a multi-mine nickel sulphide producer, building from its strategic position in the Song Da rift zone.
“It enables us to immediately pursue not only a drill program targeting extensions to the Ban Phuc massive sulphide deposit, extending the life of the existing operations, but also a drill program on high-priority regional targets which may support new stand-alone mines, including the high-potential Suoi Phang/Ban Mong system.
“Both the extension of the current operation and the multiple walk-up exploration targets capable of hosting additional standalone mines further underpin AMR’s plans to construct a nickel smelter in Son La, and realize the enhanced project economics it delivers.”
The exploration licence is valid for four years, with the right to extend for two subsequent two-year periods. Furthermore, in an official letter issued by the Vietnam Government Office on December 24, 2013, BPNM was awarded in-principle exploration rights and exemption from auction requirements over areas covering a total of 99sqkm within Son La province.
In recent years, AMR has maintained a dedicated exploration team which has conducted extensive surface exploration throughout the prolific Song Da rift zone. This exploration work has resulted in a number of well-defined targets.
AMR has now commenced a focused exploration program with three aims:
- Extend the life of the existing Ban Phuc operation;
- Explore the, already well understood, Suoi Phang/Ban Mong system; and
- Demonstrate the potential of new stand-alone mines in the region.
The issuance of the licence further supports AMR’s plan to construct a nickel smelter in Vietnam, which would enable AMR to significantly enhance the economics of Ban Phuc and future regional mines by substantially reducing export tariffs. Initial engineering studies have been completed indicating low capital costs for a smelter facility.