Core’s lithium port deal sets pace for next generation of battery mineral players
In the shadows of Australia’s sharemarket benchmark S&P-ASX 200 ending the week at a record close of 7179.5 points, Core Lithium quietly reached its own milestone on the road to becoming Australia’s next lithium producer.
Core’s (ASX: CXO) announcement of a five-year port operating agreement in Darwin was one of several milestones reported this week by a group of listed juniors pushing to join the next generation of suppliers to the battery minerals revolution.
St George Mining (ASX: SGQ) extended the scope of its fifth high-grade nickel-copper sulphide discovery at the Mt Alexander project in WA’s Goldfields, Hastings Technology Metals (ASX: HAS) confirmed a successful grade-control drilling campaign at its world-class Yangibana rare earths projects in the Gascoyne region and emerging gold stock Rox Resources (ASX: ROX) lodged the prospectus for its quality WA nickel and base metals spin-off IPO Cannon Resources.
Just like Hastings with Yangibana, Core has moved on from being an exploration play because of the advanced path towards a project final investment decision (FID).
The port operating agreement with the Port of Darwin is therefore a significant step because it paves the way for Core to be able to export its spodumene concentrate, to be produced at the Finniss project on the outskirts of the Northern Territory’s capital from late next year.
Core’s agreement with the Port of Darwin also further underlines the company’s well-staked claim about Finniss’ logistical advantage when compared to its peer group.
“Access to key infrastructure like Darwin port and the capital city of Darwin … enables Core to build one of the most capital efficient and cost-competitive hard-rock lithium projects in the world,” Core’s managing director Stephen Biggins told shareholders.
“With a successful FID expected in coming months, Core is aiming to commence exports of high-quality lithium concentrate from Darwin port by the end of next year.”
Hastings expects to reach FID on developing Yangibana during the September quarter this year, so only just lags Core in terms of timing.
Hastings’ focus is also on finalising core logistical, financial and technical aspects before works on the ground at Yangibana can start in earnest.
This week’s Hastings news was the completion of grade-control drilling at the Bald Hill deposit – the largest of the orebodies that make up Yangibana’s rare earths mineral resource footprint.
Drilling confirmed strong reconciliation between tonnes, grades and total rare earths oxides (TREO) of the earlier announced Yangibana’s mineral resource estimate, delivering 6% more TREO and 9% more resource tonnes.
Hastings is cashed up following a $100 million equity raising earlier this year and buoyed after finalising 10-year offtake terms with thyssenkrupp – one of two blue-chip German customers for Yangibana’s NdPr-heavy mixed rare earths concentrate.
Core and Hastings have their resource base largely confirmed though in both cases there remains significant upside, which could well spell eventual mine life extensions.
St George, drilling away aggressively at Mt Alexander west of Leonora, is chasing more high-grade pockets of nickel-copper sulphides to add to its five confirmed discoveries.
The latest discovery, only announced last month and yet to inherit a Rottnest Island surf break name like the other finds at Mt Alexander, has been the subject of step-out drilling.
MAD201 was the first step-out drill hole from the MAD199 discovery to test the depth and extension of MAD199’s mineralisation – and it did not disappoint. MAD201 intersected a 16m-thick intrusive unit from 421m downhole that included a 2.4m interval of nickel-copper sulphides from 434.6m downhole.
“Our systematic exploration approach of the large intrusive mineral system at the Cathedrals Belt is now delivering tangible breakthrough results,” St George’s executive chairman John Prineas said.
“We are confident that further drilling will continue to grow the footprint of high-grade mineralisation at the Cathedrals Belt, coinciding with strong capital markets focus on identifying the next generation of nickel sulphides supplies.”
Indeed, capital markets interest in nickel is soaring as the smart investor is chasing access to this key component of the battery minerals evolution. More and more deals are being done within the ranks of development and production assets, including POSCO’s buy-in into Ravensthorpe and Andrew Forrest’s bid for Noront Resources in Canada in just the past few weeks.
Rox, which wants to focus on its near-development Youanmi gold project in the Goldfields, believes the time is right to generate value by distributing its nickel and base metals assets to existing and new shareholders via the Cannon Resources IPO.
The Cannon prospectus, launched this week, will see a spin-off of the Fisher East and Collurabbie nickel assets, accompanied by a $6 million raising.
Cannon should hit the ASX boards on August 10, just as hangovers start subsiding from what promises to be a buoyant Diggers & Dealers mining conference.
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