JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) - An exploration joint venture (JV) estimates the large nickel discovery it has made in South Africa's northern Bushveld at more than $1-billion for an exploration outlay of only $4.2-million.
The Africa-focused Aim-quoted URU Metals says that it has a compliant preliminary economic assessment (PEA) from consultants led by the MSA Group, which shows the Zebediela project to have a potential of 56-million pounds of nickel a year for 25 years.
The project is located 16 km from Anglo American Platinum's rich Mogalakwena mine, near Mokopane, and has an estimated internal rate of return of 25.7% and a 3.8-year payback period.
URU's two South African partners are South African Nickel and black economic-empowerment partner Umnex, which is part of Umbono Capital.
The JV intends listing on the Toronto Venture Exchange through the Capital Pool Company programme.
URU CEO Roger Lemaitre tells Mining Weekly Online that the large disseminated sulphide nickel deposit resembles a porphyry-copper deposit in terms of its dimensions and mineralisation.
"The mineralisation is extremely consistent," he says.
A prefeasibility study will be carried out at a cost of $8.5-million over the next 18 to 24 months with a mine expected to require capital expenditure of $708-million.
MSA projects the operating cost at $3.35/lb with capital expenditure amounting to 53c/lb.
The company has not defined the full size of the resource owing to its main focus being on metallurgical testing, which shows that 50% of the nickel is recoverable into a 16% nickel concentrate.
A magnetite revenue steam will be incorporated into the revised PEA.
"We're also looking at making iron a byproduct but that's not included in the PEA at this point in time owing to analytical delays," Lemaitre adds.