THE INSIDE STORY: Venture Minerals (ASX: VMS) has commenced a detailed reassessment of the high-grade tin and tungsten Resource base at the company’s Mount Lindsay project in Tasmania.
Venture Minerals believes that as one of the world’s largest undeveloped tin project, Mt Lindsay is ideally placed to take advantage of the recent rise in both interest and the price of tin.
The 148 square kilometre Mt Lindsay project is in north-western Tasmania within the contact metamorphic aureole of the highly perspective Meredith Granite.
The project sits between the world class Renison Bell tin mine, which has produced more than 231,000 tonnes of tin metal since 1968, and the Savage River magnetite mine that has operated for over 50 years and currently producing approximately 2.5 million tonnes per annum of iron pellets.
Venture owns 100 per cent of the tenure that hosts both the Mt Lindsay tin-tungsten deposit and all surrounding prospects.
Tin hasn’t exactly been in the top ten sexiest metals list for some time, however a recent presentation by global powerhouse Rio Tinto at a battery metals conference in Perth, Australia, drew as much attention to the metal as when Battery King, Elon Musk provided nickel with a boost.
Part of the Rio presentation was a slide showing the metals most impacted by modern technologies, ranked by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Although Rio was using the information to push its Jadar lithium project in Serbia, using the MIT ranking to show lithium as the second most impacted metal, what caught the attention of most people in the room was the metal sitting above the market’s recent hot commodity, separated by a good amount of daylight – tin.
MIT credited the result to tin’s applications across a range of modern technologies, ranging through autonomous and electric vehicles, advanced robotics, renewable energy, advanced computation and information technology.
Mount Lindsay contains more than 80,000 tonnes of tin metal in the same mineralised body that also hosts a globally significant Resources of another, some may say, forgotten contributor to the current world technological advancement in tungsten.
The tungsten Resource contains 3.2 million metric tonne units (MTU) of tungsten trioxide (WO3).
The U.S. Geological Survey Mineral commodity summaries 2018 stated that total mine production of tungsten outside China was expected to be slightly higher than that of 2016.
This met with an expected combined decrease in production from Mongolia, Rwanda, Spain, and elsewhere that was less than the combined increase in production expected from the recently started Hemerdon mine in the United Kingdom and from the largest mine outside of China in Vietnam, which has improved its productivity.
“China was the world’s leading tungsten consumer,” the report said.
“During the first six to nine months of 2017, China’s consumption of tungsten concentrates, and its production and exports of downstream tungsten materials were higher than those of 2016, indicating an increase in global tungsten consumption.
“Prices of tungsten concentrates, and downstream tungsten materials continued the upward trends that began in late 2015 or early 2016.”
The International Tin Association describe tin as “the forgotten EV metal”, emphasising that it is now making ground on its contemporaries, “as a performance enhancing component in all of the three generations of advanced anode materials that have been road-mapped to 2030, plus some solid-state technologies.’”
The current market focus may be on the likes of lithium and cobalt for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, but according to the Association there is a newer generation of cheaper, safer products already in development, including sodium-ion, magnesium-ion, potassium-ion and other products.
“Tin, its alloys and compounds are prominent candidates for anode materials in some of these, and a growing number of developments including tin are noted,” the Tin Association claims.
“Although performance of some prototypes already exceeds commercial lithium-ion products, it is likely that such products will find their own market space and indeed some are already being used in niche markets.”
Other battery technologies are under development, particularly for larger scale utility power storage opening opportunities for tin, possibly in liquid metal technologies or as a catalyst in redox flow batteries.
Other recent work on ion-exchanging technologies includes tin as a possible metal-ion candidate.
Venture believes now is the time for Mt Lindsay where it has a large Resource base to draw from.
Tin recently hit around US$21,000 per tonne, an increase of some 60 per cent since January 2016.
Tungsten’s APT price has touched the plus-US$300 per MTU, representing an increase of 90 per cent since February 2016.
Since commencing exploration on the project in 2007, Venture has completed approximately 83,000m of diamond core drilling at Mt Lindsay, from which it has defined JORC compliant Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resources of 4.7 million tonnes at 0.4 per cent tin and 0.3 per cent WO3 with over 60 per cent in the Measured and Indicated categories.
A Feasibility Study completed on the project with comprehensive metallurgical test-work and post feasibility determined a very high-grade 75 per cent tin concentrate result Venture considers to likely attract price premiums.
In 2012, Venture Minerals claimed a major new high-grade tin discovery only six kilometres from the Mt Lindsay project when drilling encountered a 47-metre intersection of tin mineralisation at the Big Wilson prospect that included: 17.4 metres at 2 per cent tin, including 4m at 5.6 per cent tin.
Venture Minerals interpreted the results as being a combination of high-grade skarn style mineralisation and, typically large tonnage, greisen style mineralisation.
The high-grade nature of the earlier Big Wilson drilling opens depth opportunities, as these grades would be amenable to underground mining.
The company has made its intentions clear that it will be considering strategies to optimise the higher-grade portions at Mount Lindsay.
Venture will now look to focus on assessing the underground mining potential of this high-grade resource.
“Knowing that the Mount Lindsay project has a large tin Resource that could be harnessed to meet applications in Electrical Vehicles and renewable energy has refocussed the company to revisit its approach in developing this asset,” Venture Minerals managing director Andrew Radonjic told The Resources Roadhouse.
“Mt Lindsay is a very advanced project in Tasmania that has plenty of Resource tonnes but has a higher-grade core that we could approach from an underground perspective.
“We have a fair degree of confidence in developing an underground operation there.
“Instead of originally looking to maximise the Resource through mostly open pit mining 14 million tonnes of ore we would more likely be looking at mining four million tonnes from purely underground which we believe is the best way of bringing forward tin and tungsten production from Mount Lindsay.
“We also have a number of high-grade targets that we can follow up.”
On top of the Big Wilson target, Venture has successfully defined eight new targets it considers prospective for high-grade tin-tungsten mineralisation.
There are also several targets that appear to be prospective for copper and nickel mineralisation.
These targets are hosted within the broader skarn units identified throughout the Mount Lindsay area of which to date only 10 per cent have been drill tested.
Venture has already completed reconnaissance work designed to identify additional targets in the broader Mount Lindsay area.
Venture Minerals Limited (ASX: VMS)
…The Short Story
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Mel Ashton, Andrew Radonjic, Hamish Halliday, John Jetter