FPX completes Ottawa-backed clean nickel pilot test

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FPX Nickel Corp. [TSXV-FPX] said it has successfully completed a large-scale mineral processing pilot testing campaign for its flagship Baptiste nickel project in central British Columbia.

Baptiste is located in the Decar Nickel District, a greenfield discovery of nickel mineralization in the form of a naturally-occurring nickel-iron alloy called awaruite. Covering 245 square kilometres, it represents a promising target for bulk tonnage, open pit mining, the company has said.

In a press release the company said the pilot testing campaign marks the first significant component of the ongoing feasibility study (FS) metallurgical testwork campaign. “Results from this testwork confirm the 2023 preliminary feasibility (PFS) study basis, thereby validating FPX’s processing strategy, flowsheet, and key metallurgical criteria, including estimated recoveries,’’ the company said.

The pilot testing campaign was funded in part by a $725,000 grant from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), under the Government of Canada’s Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration program, which is advancing the commercial readiness of processing technologies that will support the development of Canada’s EV battery material supply chain.

“These first results from our feasibility study metallurgical testwork program further validate the processing advantages of awaruite which were demonstrated in the Baptiste PFS,’’ said Andrew Osterloh, FPX Nickel’s Senior Vice-President, Projects & Operations.

“Conducted with support from NRCan, this large-scale pilot program has demonstrated that the processing strategy, flowsheet, and metallurgical basis from PFS are robust, and has identified further optimizing opportunities to lower capital and operating costs,’’ he said. “This is another positive step as we continue to advance Baptiste as a potential producer of disruptive quantities of low-carbon, low-cost, Canadian nickel.’’

FPX shares were unchanged at 32.5 cents on Tuesday. The shares trade in a 52-week range of 61 cents and 25 cents.

The company notes that unlike conventional nickel mineral concentrates which have a high sulphur content, Baptiste’s awaruite concentrate is nearly sulphur-free and low in deleterious elements, meaning it can bypass intermediate smelting and be used directly in stainless steel fabrication.

Alternatively, the Baptiste awaruite concentrate is also an ideal feedstock for the production of high-purity, battery grade nickel sulphate for the electric vehicle supply chain. The company said its PFS metallurgical testing programs have well demonstrated this flexibility, and the FS metallurgical testing program is expected to confirm these previous findings at an even larger scale.

FPX said a total of 76 tonnes of material were processed in the pilot plant, resulting in approximately 9.9 days of continuous run-time in the primary grinding and separation circuits.

The awaruite concentrate generated during the mineral processing plant will now be used in the downstream hydrometallurgical refining pilot plant. FPX said it has re-engaged Sherritt Technologies Ltd. to conduct this testwork, building on their successful completion of the previous batch-scale testing program in 2023.

As previously noted, the 2023 program successfully demonstrated FPX’s proposed refinery flowsheet can produce battery grade nickel sulphate at the batch-scale, and the FS testwork program will now aim to demonstrate similar findings at the pilot-scale. Preparations for this pilot plant are underway and results are expected to be announced in the third quarter of 2024.

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