Asian Mineral Resources Ltd. received Vietnamese government approval for its reserve estimates at a property that may become the site of the first nickel mine in the Southeast Asian nation.
The Ban Phuc property in the northern Vietnamese province of Son La holds proved and probable contained nickel resources of 24,240 tons at a grade of about 2.4 percent, the Canadian company said in a TSX Venture Exchange statement. Contained resources refer to those before any losses that may take place in the processing of the resources.
The approval is a step for Asian Mineral Resources toward its goal of opening Vietnam’s first nickel mine next year. Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc. began gold output last year in Vietnam, becoming the first Western miner to start production in the nation and buoying foreign optimism about the industry after a series of failed projects in the mid-1990s.
“That’s a huge milestone for them,” said Nigel Tamlyn, general director of Nui Phao Mining Joint Venture Co. in Hanoi, a unit of Tiberon Minerals Ltd., which hopes to open a mine in Vietnam in 2008. “They’re still going to have challenges, but it’s significant to get that approval out of the way.”
Ban Phuc also has proved and probable contained copper resources of 10,100 tons at a grade of 1 percent, according to Asian Mineral Resources.
“This approval is the second in a series of four sequential steps which will culminate with the granting of a mining license,” Asian Mineral Resources said. The approval “confirms the geological significance” of the property, the company said.
Asian Mineral Resources will now target receiving Vietnamese government approval of environmental impact and feasibility studies. A feasibility study performed last year supports the development of an underground mining operation at Ban Phuc and flotation plant to produce nickel and copper bulk concentrate, Asian Mineral Resources said in its statement.
The company expects to receive its mining license by the end of 2006, and is in talks with engineers, construction and smelter groups, and project financiers, it said.
The target date for the beginning of production is the end of 2007, Asian Mineral Resources Chief Executive David Woodhouse said in the statement. The feasibility study released last year estimated the cost of opening the mine at $33.6 million. Asian Mineral Resources has a 70 percent stake in the Ban Phuc area, which covers 150 square kilometers.
Tiberon, Triple Plate
Other miners in Vietnam include Canada’s Tiberon Minerals, which said this month that it had secured financing to cover the bulk of a proposed $230 million fluorspar, tungsten and bismuth project, and the U.K’s Triple Plate Junction Plc, which said last month it believes a property on which it’s exploring may hold a “substantial multi-metal deposit.”
Newmont Mining Corp., the Colorado-based company that is the world’s largest gold producer, holds a stake in Triple Plate Junction’s Pu Sam Cap prospect in northern Vietnam’s Lai Chau province.
Pennsylvania-based Alcoa Inc., the world’s largest aluminum producer, said in April it may take part in a joint venture in Vietnam to develop a bauxite mine.
Triple Plate Junction’s optimism on Vietnam stems from “the general geological setting,” said Bill Howell, Triple Plate’s director of exploration, in a telephone interview last month. “It’s typical of other areas around the world that hold big deposits.”