Mr. Evan Spencer reports
ASIAN MINERAL RESOURCES AWARDED EXPLORATION LICENSE AND COMMENCES EXPLORATION PROGRAMME
Asian Mineral Resources Ltd.'s subsidiary, Ban Phuc Nickel Mines LLC (BPNM), has been awarded a mineral exploration licence, which provides for the exploration of nickel-copper mineralization over a significant area around its operating Ban Phuc nickel mine in Son La, Vietnam.
Highlights of exploration licence:
- Provides BPNM with exclusive rights to explore within 49.7 square kilometres of Son La
- Immediate focus on targeted extensions to the currently operating Ban
- Encompasses multiple high-priority targets already identified and well
understood by BPNM through its extensive surface exploration program;
- Following successful exploration, allows BPNM to apply for and obtain
additional mining licences with no auction requirements (subject to
positive feasibility and EIA (environmental impact assessment)).
Evan Spencer, chief executive officer of AMR, said: "The award of the exploration licence is an exciting step in the company's strategy to become a multimine 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 stand-alone 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 a period of 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 Dec. 24, 2013, BPNM was awarded in-principle exploration rights and exemption from auction requirements over areas covering a total of 99 square km within Son La province.
AMR geological setting
The operating Ban Phuc nickel mine and AMR's exploration licence areas are located within the Song Da rift zone. The Song Da rift has a geological setting that is strongly analogous to other major nickel sulphide camps, already supports two operating nickel mines (Ban Phuc and the Baimazhai mine, located about 250 km to the northwest and formed in the same geological event as Ban Phuc) and has numerous identified nickel occurrences.
Additional favourable aspects of Ban Phuc and the surrounding area include:
- Localization within the major deep crustal rift zone (Song Da rift)
separating the Indochina and Yangtze cratons;
- Localization in the axial zone of a significant domal feature (the Ta
- An emplacement age, penecontemporaneous with the giant Siberian Traps and
associated Norilsk-Talnakh nickel-copper-platinum group element (PGE)
The combination of these factors, and the demonstrated presence of a number of magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE occurrences within the Ta Khoa anticline, all indicate the potential for AMR's strategic concession areas to support a new nickel camp.
AMR exploration program
Over 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 will immediately commence 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;
- Demonstrate the potential of new stand-alone mines in the region.
Ban Phuc extension
Through a strategic ranking process, AMR has identified several opportunities to extend the life of the existing Ban Phuc operations. The extension targets are all located in close proximity to the Ban Phuc processing plant and include:
- Ban Phuc massive sulphide vein (MSV) extension: The Ban Phuc MSV
remains open at depth and to the east. A drill plan has been developed
with the aim of quickly defining direct extensions to the orebody
currently being mined by AMR;
- Kingsnake: An MSV deposit, which has already undergone some exploration
drilling and is located one km from the Ban Phuc processing plant;
- Ban Khoa: A Ban Phuc look-alike, comprising a significant intrusive body
and disseminated zone defined by both drilling and magnetics, and an
untested EM (electromagnetic) conductor in similar association to the massive sulphide
body at Ban Phuc;
- Select disseminated: A large, well-understood disseminated orebody
located directly adjacent to the Ban Phuc MSV. Studies are already
under way, with the objective of blending select, high-grade portions of
disseminated sulphides, which are accessible from the existing
underground infrastructure associated with the currently operating mine.
Suoi Phang/Ban Mong system
The Suoi Phang/Ban Mong system is located 12 km in a direct line from Ban Phuc and is one of AMR's immediate regional targets.
Exploration work undertaken to date has identified two significant MSV outcroppings, which, if demonstrated to connect at depth, would represent a system with a strike length of over four km.
Rock chip samples from the multiple outcrops associated with these MSV deposits demonstrate nickel grades of over 5 per cent, plus material PGE occurrences. The Ban Mong deposit has also been intercepted by historical exploration adit, with MSV grades of up to 6.6 per cent nickel sampled from within the adit.
Beyond the immediate proximity of Ban Phuc and Suoi Phange/Ban Mong, AMR has also identified a number of exploration targets with the potential to support additional stand-alone mining operations. The experience gained through the operation of the Ban Phuc mine and processing plant positions AMR well to quickly develop a pipeline of additional nickel sulphide mines from its strategic licence areas.
A number of other regional targets exist, including:
- Ban Khang: Surface exploration has indicated Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization in
rock chip samples, and significant untested EM anomalies have been
identified coincident with this deposit and nearby dikes;
- Ban Trang: A dike-like body dominated by pyroxenites within a high-strain zone. Elevated PGE contents support a magmatic origin for the
- Suoi Tao: Differentiated mafic-ultramafic rocks, which have intruded Ban
Mong and Sap Viet horizon sediments in a tectonically favourable part of
the Ta Khoa anticline. Drilling and rock chipping have identified
magmatic, disseminated Ni-Cu-PGE sulphides;
- Suoi Hao: Mafic-ultramafic sills with evidence of ductile deformation,
associated with marble and pelites of the Ban Tang horizon. The
intrusives contain both massive and disseminated sulphides with a
magmatic signature, the former intersected in drill core;
- Adit 7: An exploration adit, which demonstrates a magmatic semi-massive
sulphide deposit associated with an altered ultramafic dike;
- Others: Other areas with early-stage indications of mineralization that
may be considered further during exploration include Ban Bo, Ban Chang
and Co Muong.
Nickel smelter development
The issuance of the exploration licence further supports AMR's plan to construct a nickel smelter in Vietnam. As previously announced on Jan. 10, 2013, the construction of a smelter would enable AMR to significantly enhance the economics of Ban Phuc and future regional mines by substantially reducing export tariffs (currently an export tariff of 20 per cent applies to nickel concentrate compared with a tariff of 5 per cent for nickel matte). Further to the improved fiscal conditions, AMR would also benefit from significantly reduced transportation costs.
Initial engineering studies have already been completed, indicating low capital costs for a smelter facility at Ban Phuc. AMR intends to proceed with further feasibility work and will provide additional updates as appropriate.
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