Rebranded Nickel Creek eyes electric vehicle sector

Drilling operations at Nickel Creek Platinum's 100%-owned Nickel Shaw Project in the Yukon Territory. Source: Nickel Creek Platinum Ltd.

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By Peter Kennedy

Drilling operations at Nickel Creek Platinum’s 100%-owned Nickel Shaw Project in the Yukon Territory. Source: Nickel Creek Platinum Ltd.

Nickel Creek Platinum Ltd. [NCP-TSX; NCPCF-OTCQX], a company previously known as Wellgreen Platinum, is hitching itself onto the electric vehicle revolution in a bid to improve the economic viability of its Yukon project, attract more investors interest, and move the project towards commercial production.

When Resource World visited the newly christened Nickel Shaw Project last year, the company was in the midst of a re-branding exercise that was being spearheaded by a new management team led by President and CEO Diane Garrett.

Prior to joining Nickel Creek, Garrett was President and CEO of Romarco Minerals Ltd., a company that was developing the Haile gold mine that was scooped up by OceanaGold Corp. [OGC-TSX, ASX] in a deal worth $856 million in August 2015. OceanaGold is now pouring gold at the Haile gold mine in South Carolina.

By changing its name to Nickel Creek, the company was obviously aiming the put the emphasis on other metals in the company’s arsenal, including ones like copper and nickel which the company said are needed to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles.

As it stands now, the Nickel Shaw Project hosts a measured and indicated resource of 362 million tonnes, containing 2 billion pounds of nickel, 1 billion pounds of copper and 6 million ounces of platinum group metals, plus gold. The estimate is based on the results of 74 drill holes that were completed since the company announced its last mineral resource estimate in July, 2014.

A year ago, Garrett said the company has gained a better understanding of the deposit. Among the knowledge gained is the identification of future exploration drill targets.

As the company already knew that it could produce bulk concentrates, ideas being discussed were the production of separate nickel and copper concentrates, a move that could improve the economics of the project. Graeme Jennings, the company’s Vice-President, Corporate Development, said the company was planning a 6,000-metre drill program to improve confidence levels in the current resource estimates.

In an April 25, 2018 news release, the company said recent work has demonstrated that there are no barriers to the technical process of separating nickel and copper. It said it would now begin a mini pilot plant test program which enables the production of separate nickel and copper concentrates and qualifies the grades and recoveries of those concentrates.

“We don’t want the nickel going into the copper concentrates because we wouldn’t get paid for the nickel,” explained Heather White, the Chief Operating Officer at Nickel Creek. She said the test work is being conducted at Glencore AG labs in Sudbury, Ontario.

Precious metals (PGMs and gold) and cobalt will be measured in the concentrates.

“The commencement of mini pilot-plant testing is the final stage of the metallurgical testing at the Nickel Shaw Project,” Garrett said. “Over the past 18 months, the company has focused on de-risking Nickel Shaw through a series of detailed and scientifically based studies, including a new geologic model, the Phase 1 Metallurgical program, which demonstrated the viability of producing saleable bulk concentrate, a foundation for an optimized mine plan and process flow sheet, and a new NI 43-101 resource estimate.”

Garrett went on to say that by the current and final stage of metallurgical test work, the company should be well positioned  to continue moving the project up the value chain towards the goal of advancing the project to become Canada’s next large scale nickel-copper-cobalt-PGM sulfide producer.

The next major stage for the project will be the announcement of a preliminary economic assessment, likely in the fall of 2018.

Meanwhile, the company is planning an exploration program to examine the endowment potential within the Nickel Shaw Project area. The current resource area spans 2.2 km in strike length along an 18-km trend within a land package.

“Historic and current high-level mapping, geophysics and limited previous drilling provide us with confidence that additional mineralization beyond the known resource may be identified,” the company has said.

However, during a recent interview, Jennings said commercial production is likely several years away. That’s because it will likely take another two years before a feasibility study is complete. The project would then need to enter the permitting stage.

Still, Jennings said Nickel Creek offers a rare opportunity for investors to gain exposure to a nickel sulphide project.

On Wednesday July 4, shares were trading at 23 cents, leaving the company with a market cap of $48.5 million, based on 236.6 million shares outstanding.  The 52-week range is 35 cents and 18.5 cents.

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