Wingellina Nickel-Cobalt Project
The world-class Wingellina Nickel-Cobalt Project (Wingellina) is the largest undeveloped nickel-cobalt project in Australia and part of Metals X’s Central Musgrave Project (CMP) which straddles the triple-point of the Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia borders.
The CMP has a Mineral Resource of approximately 2.0 million tonnes of nickel and 154,000 tonnes of cobalt, within which Wingellina hosts an Ore Reserve of approximately 1.56 million tonnes of nickel and 123,000 tonnes of cobalt.
Wingellina is one of the largest nickeliferous ‘pure oxide’ limonite accumulations in the world. The mineralogy of the Wingellina ore is a major strength of the project as, unlike most Australian nickel laterite projects, has characteristics perfectly suited to High Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL) with high iron grades (resource average 47% Fe2O3) and a very low concentration of magnesium (resource average 1.6% Mg).
Wingellina is a development-ready, high-grade project, with a demonstrated ability to produce nickel & cobalt sulphates, sulphides and hydroxides. The unique characteristics of Wingellina provides a number of investment and development options for Metals X and potential investment partners.
- 1954: First deposits of nickel oxides in weathered ultramafic rocks in the Musgrave region located in the Mt Davies area, in the far northwest of South Australia.
- 1956: International Nickel Company (INCO) discovers the Wingellina nickel oxide deposit over the border within Western Australia.
- 1957-65: Ongoing exploration, drilling and metallurgical activities by Inco.
- 1965-70: Inco & Nickel Mines of Australia (NMA), under a JV, complete further exploration including extensive drilling programs.
- 1970: Inco withdraws from the JV.
- 1970-74: Further exploration work by NMA, including diamond drilling and efforts to find a new project partner.
- 1975-2001: Proclamation of Aboriginal Reserve 17614 in 1975 with no further exploration permitted by the traditional owners.
- 2001: Local Traditional Owners signed an Access Agreement with Hinckley Range Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Acclaim Exploration.
- 2001 – 2006: Acclaim conducts extensive exploration drilling programs and updates resource estimates.
- 2006: Metals X Ltd purchases the project from Acclaim.
- 2006-2008: MLX continues extensive RC and DDH drilling programs and metallurgical testwork leading to Mineral Resource estimates being declared for the Wingellina Deposit and Claude Hills deposit in South Australia.
- 2008: Phase 1 Feasibility Study completed.
- 2008 – 2015: Comprehensive bench-scale & pilot metallurgical test work, geotechnical diamond drilling, extensive flora and fauna studies, site engineering testing and logistics investigations in preparation for a bankable feasibility study.
- 2010: Metals X and the Ngaanyatjarra Land Council sign a mining agreement covering the Wingellina deposit.
- 2016: Public Environmental Review approval by Environmental Protection Authority
- 2016 – 2018: Further metallurgical studies, investigation of infrastructure options, and completion of an infill drilling program to test conceptual high-grade cobalt starter pits within the defined Mineral Resource.
The Project covers approximately 1,756km2 of the mid-Proterozoic Musgrave Block, an east-west trending belt of granulite-gneiss basement rocks approximately 500 kilometres long. Within this package is the economically significant Giles Complex which comprises over twenty-one separate layered ultramafic, mafic and anorthositic intrusions with a combined outcrop area of about 1,200km2. Deep weathering of the Giles Complex rocks has developed substantial high metallurgical purity, limonite rich lateritic nickel-cobalt deposits.
The CMP comprises two lateritic nickel-cobalt resource areas;
- Wingellina located within Western Australia and,
- Claude Hills located within South Australia.
Metals X completed a Phase 1 Feasibility Study (+/– 25%) in 2008 which highlighted Wingellina as a robust project, with a minimum 40 year mine life at an average annual production rate of 40,000 tonnes of nickel and 3,000 tonnes of cobalt. The Feasibility Study assumed a nickel price of US$20,000 per tonne nickel, US$40,000 per tonne cobalt and an A$/US$ exchange rate of 0.85, resulting in an estimated NPV(8%) of US$3.4 Billion at a production cost of US$3.34/lb after cobalt credits.
The Company has identified 15 potential high-grade, cobalt-nickel conceptual pits with a significant quantity of nickel and cobalt (326,100 tonnes Ni and 25,800 tonnes Co) within the existing Wingellina Mineral Resource and has infill drilled 6 of these pits. Preliminary optimisations of the high-grade cobalt – nickel pits demonstrate potential for a high grade, small scale start-up option for Wingellina.
Metallurgical testwork on Wingellina ore was conducted during 2018 for the production of cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate as feedstock for the battery industry. Leaching of cobalt and nickel was successfully completed. Previous variability testwork indicated that leach recoveries of over 94% for both nickel and cobalt are achievable with acid consumptions of approximately 300kg/t.
Infrastructure and Approvals
The CMP infrastructure contains a camp, airstrip and water borefield.
Metals X has been working towards making Wingellina development-ready, having executed a mining agreement covering 18,000km2 with the Native Title holders, the Ngaanyatjarra People, receiving environmental approval with the EPA for project development, and securing water and calcrete resources (for acid neutralisation in the proposed process plant).
Discussions continue with government departments and potential infrastructure partners regarding establishment of infrastructure corridors to service the project with power, gas and upgraded roads.
Claude Hills Project
The Claude Hills Project is located approximately 30km to the east of Wingellina.
A significant exploration program was completed in 2010 which identified an initial deposit of 33.3 million tonnes at 0.81% Ni and 0.07% Co.
The additional resource at Claude Hills demonstrates the potential to add a significant amount of additional reserves and mine-life to the Wingellina Project.
The large resources identified at both the Wingellina Project and Claude Hills Project represent exploration on less than 25% of the known potential mineralised zones in the area. While the Company is focussed on bringing the Wingellina Project to development, the potential upside exploration opportunity is significant