Blackstone confirms Metso as key piece in Ta Khoa puzzle

ASX-listed Blackstone Minerals has confirmed Finland’s Metso as its technology supplier for the precursor cathode active material (pCAM) plant in its proposed Ta Khoa refinery in Vietnam. Metso is also designing the pCAM plant and is now part of Blackstone’s Ta Khoa definitive feasibility study group.

The equipment manufacturer will conduct independent pCAM testwork to validate nickel and cobalt sulphates generated in a pilot program for suitability in pCAM generation.

Blackstone, which has a current circa-A$66 million market capitalisation, is looking to demonstrate the economics of a US$850 million, 400,000 tonnes per annum integrated battery metals processing operation producing nickel-cobalt-manganese precursor products for regional lithium-ion battery manufacturing. Anchoring its blueprint is the 90%-owned former Ta Khoa underground nickel mine, 160km west of Hanoi in the Son La Province of Vietnam, from which Blackstone is already sourcing bulk sample material for study work.

Blackstone’s plan revolves around Ta Khoa, estimated to have at least 10 years’ mine life remaining, supplying about 18,000t of nickel in concentrate a year to its refinery.

It filed a positive prefeasibility on the mine restart last year.

“To unlock the flowsheet, the company is focused on a partnership model and is collaborating with groups who are committed to sustainable mining, minimising the carbon footprint and implementing a vertically integrated supply chain,” Blackstone says.

“The company’s development strategy is underpinned by the ability to secure nickel concentrate and Ta Khoa is emerging as a nickel sulphide district with several exploration targets yet to be tested.”

Metso is designing the pCAM plant with Scotland-based engineering firm, Wood.

Metso’s battery material and pCAM team was established in 2019 and has its own pCAM testing facilities.

The company’s modular OKTOP reactors, Larox filters and Courier HX analysers are all seen as valuable parts of a pCAM circuit. “Metso has shown that precursors precipitated with OKTOP reactor technology are proven to meet the required chemical and physical properties for high performance cathode active material,” the manufacturer says.

“Securing another world leader to the Ta Khoa project is yet another jigsaw piece in the battery value chain puzzle,” Blackstone managing director Scott Williamson said.

“Blackstone intends to leverage off Metso ’s engineering services and know-how into the pCAM facility design, thus de-risking the project and confirming Blackstone’s intent to be a real player in the pCAM space.”


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