Aim-listed explorer and developer URU Metals reports that geological exploration work will soon restart at its 100%-owned flagship Zebediela nickel project, which is situated on the northern limb of the Bushveld Complex in Limpopo, South Africa.
The Bushveld Complex hosts an estimated 11.9-million tons of nickel and ranks third in terms of nickel sulphide content globally.
The project is targeting battery- and higher-grade nickel-sulphide mineralisation to the east of the Zebediela nickel-sulphide resource.
The project contains a National Instrument (NI) 43-101-compliant nickel sulphide resource of over 1 600-million tonnes, grading 0.245% nickel, with the potential to produce over 500 000 t of nickel using an openpit mining method, ranking it among the top ten largest nickel sulphide resources globally.
Nickel sulphide deposits are the primary source for Class 1 nickel and represent about 40% of current known nickel resources.
The remaining 60% is found in nickel laterite deposits, which are the primary source for Class 2 nickel. Class 1 nickel is sought after for use in electric vehicle (EV) lithium-ion batteries, whilst Class 2 nickel is mainly used in nickel pig iron and the steel industry.
The Zebediela project is immediately adjacent to, and up-dip from, Ivanhoe Mines' $1.5-billion Platreef project, and about 15 km along strike from Anglo American Platinum's flagship Mogalakwena mining complex.
URU Metals has identified a target geological zone directly east and adjacent to the existing Zebediela resource that has produced results of 0.56% nickel over a width of greater than 4 m from exploration drilling, with significant cobalt and platinum group element (PGE) credits, resulting in a nickel equivalent grade of 3.01% nickel.
As such, the company points out that drill hole Z017 intersected 1.7% nickel and 0.7 g/t of PGEs and gold, over a width of 2.25 m, 20 m below the existing NI 43-10-compliant resource.
Further exploration drilling will test this target, estimated to be about 5 000 m in strike length and varying in thickness between 1.8 m and 10 m, from depths of 30 m below surface down to depths of greater than 400 m.
The project team is confident that this drilling will result in increasing the overall grade of the project. Drilling is planned to commence in the fourth quarter, subject to the company securing the funding required for this programme.
Meanwhile, resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa, an extension to the final submission date of the environmental-impact assessment (EIA) and environmental management programme was granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and these reports are to be submitted on January 15, 2021.
The EIA is currently under way to ensure that future mining on the project is done in the most environment-friendly manner possible, in order to share the company's vision of a “green nickel development”.
Going forward, URU plans to commence in a 12-hole drill programme in October, which is expected to be completed in March 2021, subject to funding. The results of this drilling programme will enable the company to estimate the amount of infill drilling required to update the project resource statement.
In parallel to the exploration drilling, EIA studies continue, and the submission of the EIA to the DMRE will be made in the first quarter of 2021, and is a crucial step in enabling the DMRE to award a mining right to URU.
URU CEO John Zorbas says that, with the current trend of increasing demand for Class 1 nickel in battery technologies, the company sees long-term growth potential for the nickel market.
"URU's Zebediela nickel sulphide deposit . . . is potentially an important future source of Class 1 nickel due to a lack of major nickel sulphide mines coming online in recent years.”
He adds that URU is working to improve the current project economics by targeting a higher-grade nickel resource, and ultimately develop the project in an environment-friendly manner, eventually contributing towards green energy and helping to meet the increasing demand for battery-grade nickel products for use in the electric vehicle markets.