A maiden resource estimate on Cliffs Natural Resources’ (CLF-N) and First Point Minerals’ (FPX-V) Decar nickel-iron alloy project in northern B.C. has delineated almost 3 billion lbs. nickel in the ground.
The inferred resource on the Baptiste deposit, based on 12,600 metres of core over 42 holes, now stands at 1.2 billion tonnes grading 0.113% nickel based on a 0.06% Davis Tube recoverable nickel cut-off grade.
The unusually low nickel grade is still of economic interest because of the nature of the Baptiste deposit, which hosts significant amounts of the nickel-iron alloy mineral awaruite in an open-pittable deposit. Metallurgical testing has shown the companies could recover 80% of the awaruite using only basic grinding, gravity and magnetic-separation processing to produce a ferronickel concentrate grading 2.6% nickel, 52% iron as magnetite and 2.2% chromite.
Caracle Creek International Consulting, which managed the 2011 drill program and prepared the resource estimate, has recommended a 16,500-metre, 49-hole drill program for 2012 to upgrade resources to the indicated category.
The 2012 program will include six deep holes probing to 600 metres depth, while most holes will be in the 300-metre range.
The deposit is 2.3 km long, ranges between 350 and 600 metres wide, up to 350 metres deep, and lies under 10 metres of overburden.
The deposit is open along strike to the east and west, somewhat to the south and at depth throughout the deposit.
Cliffs has earned in 51% of the project from First Point and acts as operator. It has secured drilling services for the year and is looking into establishing a 50-person exploration camp on-site. This year’s work will also include 1,800 metres of geotechnical drilling, while environmental baseline studies continue.
The joint venture between Cliffs and First Point, however, hit a rocky patch in May, with First Point serving notice of arbitration over Cliff’s apparent refusal to provide information prepared by consultants on the project. First Point claims that Cliffs has not provided key reports, as required under the option agreement.
As the joint venture stands, Cliffs can earn 60% of the project by completing a scoping study by March 2013. For 65% it has to complete a prefeasibility study, and for 75% it must complete a bankable feasibility study. If it earns in fully, First Point would hold a 25% participating interest, plus a 1% net smelter return royalty.
First Point fully controls seven other properties in B.C. and Yukon — including the Light project in Australia — and is exploring for similar deposits in eight countries.
The company is spending a minimum of $3 million on exploration in 2012.
First Point’s share price climbed 4¢, or 6.6%, to 65¢ over two days following the resource news. The company has a 52-week share price range between 39¢ and $1.06 and has 92.2 million shares outstanding.
The venture-listed company was recently granted conditional approval to list on the TSX, and extended the expiry date for 4.5-million 80¢ warrants for a year that were set to expire at the end of April.
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