Amur has just released details of the 2018 programme of works for its Kun-Manie nickel sulphide mine in Russia, and the emphasis is now shifting further and further towards development.
Drilling will occur this year, but much more emphasis will be placed on metallurgical work, updating the open-pit and underground mine plans at IKEN/KUBUK, boosting the resource base on data already being processed, doing metallurgical work, and wrapping an economic model around all the results.
Young expects an independently audited pre-feasibility study to be in place by the end of the second quarter of this year, with some of the work likely to be at full-feasibility standard.
“We’re just going to keep going down this road,” he says.
“We’re going to meet all the requirements of the Russian authorities. And we’re going to keep to our basic premise which has always been that we will keep driving this through towards production. If necessary we will find financing to do it ourselves.”
If some kind of deal comes along in the meantime, though, so much the better.
“A deal will be done when the time is right,” says Young firmly.
In the meantime, buoyed by a new funding facility from Riverfort, the company is in a strong position to press on with this year’s work programme.
This year will bring a new flavour to the work though, one added by the near-unique nature of the nickel deposit at Kun-Manie.
As is well-known, with a resource invenotry of more than a million tonnes of nickel equivalent, Kun-Manie is one of the last remaining major nickel sulphide deposits in the world, and as Young points out, the largest in the vicinity of three of the major demand centres for electric vehicle batteries, China, Korea and Japan.
Nickel is a key component in electric vehicle batteries, but from an economic perspective not every nickel production source is suitable.
That’s because the processing nickel from out of the remaining major source, laterites, is very expensive when it comes to manufacturing the sulphate form of nickel required for batteries. Nickel sulphides, like Kun-Manie, are much cheaper.
All of which adds another dimension to the potential offering from Kun-Manie.
“We know we can generate a concentrate,” says Young.
“We know we can sell it to a smelter. But there is also the possibility we could make our own concentrate and generate sulphate minerals for use in batteries, cutting out the middle man. So we are taking a close look at what it would take us to become an end-product supplier all the way down to the battery makers themselves. We are the largest sulphide project near the Chinese market.”
What’s more, although the location of Kun-Manie in Russia has sometimes been seen as a negative on Western bourses, in terms of cutting battery-related deals in the Far East, it could actually turn in to a benefit.
“The Russians and the Chinese have good working relations,” says Young.
In the meantime, much hard work remains to be done.
“We’ll be staying the course,” says Young.
“We’re focussed on what we’re doing. The resource update, the life of mine work, the underground updates, the met work – all of these things move the metal forward.”