VANCOUVER — A maiden resource estimate on Cliffs Natural Resources’ and First Point Minerals’ Decar project in northern British Columbia has put almost 3 billion lb of nickel in the ground.
The initial inferred resource on the Baptiste deposit, based on roughly 12,600 metres of core over 42 holes, stands at 1.2 billion tonnes grading 0.113% Ni based on a Davis Tube recoverable nickel cut-off grade of 0.06%.
The unusually low nickel grade is possible because of the nature of the Baptiste deposit, which hosts significant amounts of the nickel-iron alloy 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, 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 currently has a strike length of 2.3 km, ranges between 350 and 600 metres width, is up to 350 metres vertical, and is generally covered by about 10 metres of overburden. The deposit is still open along strike to the east and west, somewhat to the south and at depth throughout the deposit.
Cliffs, which currently owns 51% of the project and is operator, 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.
To earn 60% of the project Cliffs has to complete a scoping study by March 2013, for 65% it has to complete a prefeasibility study, and ultimately 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 also fully controls seven other properties in British Columbia and Yukon, 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 roughly 4.5 million 80¢-warrants for a year that were set to expire at the end of April.
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