Balmoral Resources (TSX: BAR; US-OTC: BALMF) has found several nickel sulphide zones in the central part of its Grasset ultramafic complex in Quebec after drilling the area during its late 2018 exploration program. The discoveries sit 7 km northwest of the company’s Grasset polymetallic deposit.
Highlights include 1.05% nickel, 0.31% copper, 0.05% cobalt, 0.2 gram platinum per tonne and 0.48 gram palladium per tonne over 7.6 metres from 632 metres downhole, as well as 0.31% nickel over 42 metres from 180 metres downhole.
Balmoral discovered the Grasset deposit in 2013, and would go on to table a maiden resource in 2016.
Per that report, Grasset contains 3.45 million indicated tonnes grading 1.56% nickel, 0.17% copper, 0.03% cobalt, 0.34 gram platinum and 0.84 gram palladium for 119 million lb. nickel, 13.2 million lb. copper, 2.3 million lb. cobalt, 37,900 oz. platinum and 93,400 oz. palladium. This represents a high-grade core the company says lies within a larger nickel sulphide body totalling more than 15 million tonnes.
A crashing nickel price in 2016 eventually forced Balmoral to focus on its gold projects. It drilled regional holes at Grasset in late 2015, however, before moving away from the project.
“We actually got a surprising amount of nickel sulphide in a number of locations in that drill program,” Balmoral president and CEO Darin Wagner says in an interview with The Northern Miner. “But that was the last drill program that we ran, because — obviously — the nickel price was very weak in 2016, 2017 and into 2018.”
When the nickel price started to improve in the second half of 2018, Balmoral decided to resume drilling at Grasset. These latest results are a follow up to one of its discoveries from late 2015. Drilling deeper, the company found a different mineralization style — Type 1 komatiite-hosted nickel sulphide mineralization — than the Type 2 komatiite hosted mineralization at the H3 zone of its Grasset deposit.
“We drilled down through the base of the sequence, and lo and behold, there’s a very nice sulphide accumulation,” Wagner says. “A follow up hole caught the same thing about 125 metres away.”
He says the drilling confirms not only multiple mineralization styles in the belt, but also mineralization at different levels of stratigraphy.
“It aligns that belt on a global basis with belts in Australia where these komatiite type deposits are very well known. In Finland, Russia, even the Raglan and Thompson belts in Canada — they’re younger, but a similar style,” Wagner says.
“The one common thing between all those belts is they host a cluster of deposits. So it really does open this area up for a new target type. You now start to look at canvassing the camp for a district-scale play.”
The company also completed a geophysical survey over the area around its discoveries. It says the survey “really lit up the surrounding rocks,” and suggests the discovery could be even bigger than the drill results show. It intends to return to the area mid-February 2019 and continue drilling.
The company typically breaks its yearly exploration into two stages. It does a winter program that takes advantage of Quebec’s frozen ground to drill, and a summer program based on the results of that winter program.
Wagner says the company will likely spend $1 million on this winter’s program. It will follow up on Balmoral’s discovery, but also on some holes in the Grasset deposit itself. He is not yet sure how much the company will spend in the summer.
The company still has assays pending from five new holes at the Grasset deposit, including the deepest hole it has ever drilled at the project. The hole extends more than 800 metres below surface, representing a 300-metre step out from the defined deposit. The company expects to release results in early February 2019.
“When we left off at Grasset in 2015, we had walked it down to about 500 metres vertical depth, and it remained open beneath that depth,” Wagner says. “We just couldn’t justify drilling those more expensive holes when the nickel price was as soft as it was.”
Balmoral also recently flew a geophysical survey over its RUM nickel properties, 140 km northeast of Matagami, Que., and is flying a geophysical survey over its Gargoyle nickel property in Ontario.
Meanwhile, the company is exploring options to bring in partners at some of its gold projects. Its Martiniere gold project in Quebec contains an open-pit, constrained, 6.8 million indicated tonnes grading 1.96 grams gold for 431,000 oz. gold, as well as an underground 1.09 million indicated tonnes at 4.54 grams gold for 159,000 oz. gold.
The company has at least six other gold properties across Quebec and Ontario.
“Certainly the winter work will be exclusively on the nickel side,” Wagner says. “And I suspect the bulk of the work in 2019 that we’ll pay for will be on the nickel side of the equation.”
Balmoral shares are trading at 14¢ with a 52-week range of 12¢ to 49¢. The company has a $19-million market capitalization.
“There’s a chance the gold market has a run here a little later in the year, but there are a lot of factors weighing in around the gold market right now that are points of uncertainty,” Wagner says.
“We look at the supply-demand equation in the nickel space at the moment and think that by the time we get results from our winter drilling, the nickel price should be on the upswing, and therefore generating a fair bit of interest in a new discovery.”