Aus­tralian firm se­cures Solomons nickel deal

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor -

AUS­TRALIAN min­ing com­pany Ax­iom has se­cured what it says is one of the world’s largest nickel de­posits un­der a 50-year deal in the Solomon Is­lands.

In­de­pen­dent re­search for Ax­iom showed the de­posit held close to 160 mil­lion tonnes of nickel ore, with an es­ti­mated value of al­most $ 60 bil­lion dol­lars.

Ax­iom CEO Ryan Mount said the Solomons de­posit was the ‘‘ jewel in the crown’’ among the com­pany’s ten­e­ments in North Queens­land and Viet­nam.

Mr Mount said the lease, cov­er­ing 45sq km on Santa Is­abel is­land, was signed last week in the Solomons cap­i­tal of Ho­niara af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The re­sult was a coup for the Aus­tralian com­pany as Tokyo-based Su­mit­omo Metal Min­ing had been work­ing hard to se­cure the ten­e­ment.

‘‘ Many com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia and through­out Asia have been try­ing to se­cure this site for decades,’’ Mr Mount said. ‘‘ We were suc­cess­ful be­cause we tried it a dif­fer­ent way. Rather than top down, we are build­ing this pro­ject from the bot­tom up, by deal­ing di­rectly with the landown­ers.’’

Mr Mount said Ax­iom was es­tab­lish­ing an of­fice in Ho­niara and would ap­ply for a prospect­ing li­cence as soon as pos­si­ble.

Ax­iom had formed a joint ven­ture with the lo­cal Koloso­ria nd Bun­gusule Landowner Trustee groups, with Ax­iom hold­ing 80 per cent, Mr Mount said.

Re­source Cap­i­tal Re­search says the de­posit is shal­low and con­tains 159 mil­lion t onnes of ore av­er­ag­ing 1.045 per cent nickel and .06 per cent cobalt.

The re­source has not been de­vel­oped pre­vi­ously due to low nickel prices, landowner is­sues and po­lit­i­cal dis­putes.

The Solomons’ gov­ern­ment put the site out for ten­ders in March last year, but the de­posit has been known for more than 50 years.

An­other Aus­tralian com­pany, Al­lied Gold, is ex­pect­ing its Gold Ridge pro­ject in the Solomons to pro­duce its first gold this month.

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