Group Ten Metals (TSXV: PGE; US-OTC: PGEZF) expects to publish its first resource estimate in the coming weeks for the Stillwater West platinum-group elements (PGE) plus gold, copper, nickel and cobalt project in Montana, president and CEO Michael Rowley tells The Northern Miner.
Group Ten is the second-largest landholder in the Stillwater Complex, with a $15 billion major, Sibanye-Stillwater (NYSE: SBSW), running a highly successful operation one kilometre away at the closest point. Sibanye hosts about 86.9 million ounces PGEs across all resource categories at Stillwater.
“This is a big system, and that’s pretty rare for a junior in the first place. Large magmatic systems with grade are very rare in the world,” he says in an interview.
“You’ve got the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa, the Norilsk Camp in Russia, and then there’s the Stillwater Complex of Montana. Stillwater looks a lot like the Waterberg in South Africa.”
Since acquiring the project in 2017, Group Ten has been working feverishly towards establishing first resources at Stillwater West. “Our strategy is to debut those resources, get them on the table, grow the company around those and expand them organically through the drill bit, to create value,” says Rowley.
“We think we’ve already done that for an expansion next year. I don’t have the results yet, of course, but visually we think we have. And we’ll probably do a bigger program next year. We’ve essentially doubled our program each of the four years we’ve been on the ground, and we look forward to doing that again, maybe more next year.”
Rowley believes the initial resource statement will make a robust debut. “It’s going to place us nicely among our peers,” he says. “We expect we’ll grow those resources as fast as we can issue an update next year.”
Consulting engineering firm SGS Geological Services recently completed a site visit and is working with Group Ten to deliver the resource estimate. The initial resource will hinge on the most advanced target areas at Stillwater West, comprising the Chrome Mountain, Camp, and Iron Mountain targets.
The company is finalizing block models comprising drill-defined nickel and copper sulphide mineralization, enriched in palladium, platinum, rhodium, gold and cobalt for release in the near term.
In addition to the more advanced areas, the inaugural resource figures will include the Crescent target area following the successful expansion of the block models based on the continuity of mineralization observed in all target areas.
Diamond drilling is ongoing, with one rig at the Chrome Mountain target area, and a second that completed priority holes at the Camp target area before moving to the Iron Mountain area.
Group Ten has drilled twelve holes to date. Rowley says conditions remain favourable, and the program is expected to continue into October.
The company is undertaking an induced polarization geophysical survey to the west of the highly successful 2020 survey in the Chrome Mountain target area. In-fill lines, and additional extension lines off the east end of the previous work at the Crescent target area, are also planned.
Rowley says Group Ten is bringing PGM bulk mining to North America for the first time. The model was pioneered by Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) on the Platreef project in South Africa, and applied to the Mogalakwena mine in the early 1990s by Anglo American (LSE: AAL), and continued today at Platinum Group Metals’ (TSX: PTM) advanced Waterberg project.
“These three adjoining projects comprise the Platreef district and are similar in stratigraphic location and mine model, with bulk mining methods, economies of scale, and co-product nickel and copper sulphides,” says Rowley.
Group Ten also adds cobalt to that mix at Stillwater that the Bushveld does not have.
Bulk mining brings much lower operating costs (about $400 per oz. at Anglo American and Ivanhoe Mines) and multi-decade mine life in comparison with conventional platinum group mines from narrow reef-type deposits that have dominated production for many decades historically, according to Rowley.
“For example, our neighbour Sibanye-Stillwater mines at about $800 per ounce, and the deepest mines in the Bushveld, home to three-quarters of the world’s platinum resources, have even higher costs in both monetary and human terms,” says Rowley.
Stillwater West is in a parallel location at Stillwater, in a famously similar system, and the focus is clearly on those more extensive, Platreef-style systems. “To be clear, we have known reef-type mineralization — and these are reflected in our cross-sections. But our upcoming resources will be bulk-tonnage Platreef-in-Montana PGE-nickel-copper-cobalt-plus-gold mineralization, with lots of room to grow,” he says.
Meanwhile, the company has engaged Greg Dipple and his team at the University of British Columbia, Canada, for a second phase of research to assess the capacity to use mineral carbonation to bind carbon dioxide for permanent disposal as part of a potential mining operation at Stillwater West.
Preliminary work has shown good potential based on the presence of certain minerals at Stillwater West. This next phase of the study is expected to refine and advance that work by identifying specific minerals in rock samples while looking at possible reaction rates, among other items.
“This new study paves the way for further reductions in the carbon footprint for all our commodities in a possible production scenario at Stillwater West, offsetting the impact of mining activities and potentially even achieving significant reductions wherein the uptake and disposal of carbon exceeds the emission from operations.
“In addition to being strongly aligned with Group Ten’s Environmental, Social and Governance guidelines and principles, the incorporation of carbon uptake may bring financial benefits via initiatives such as the 45Q Tax Credit for Carbon Oxide Sequestration that is now in place in the U.S.,” Rowley says.
Over the last year, Group Ten Metals’ shares listed in Toronto have traded within a range of C26.5¢ and C51¢ and at presstime were C33¢ per share.
(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)