Atlantic Nickel upgrades Mineral Resource and adds significant underground potential; restart realizes first production of concentrate

Atlantic Nickel (“Atlantic Nickel” or the “Company”) and Appian Capital Advisory LLP (“Appian”) are pleased to announce recent drilling results, an updated Mineral Resource estimate for the Santa Rita nickel sulphide re-start project (“Santa Rita” or the “Project”) located in Brazil.


  • 30,785m RC infill drilling program for nickel sulphide completed upgrading open pit Resource block model and de-risking over half of the expected initial mine life of 8 years
  • Updated Mineral Resource (open pit) increased to 59Mt at 0.33% NiS, 0.11% Cu
  • Diamond drilling program of 75,500m completed below the current open pit, including 5,000m of drilling for metallurgical sample collection
  • Drilling below the open pit Resource further defines and extends mineralization amenable to underground mining. A Resource model update for this material is pending in Q1 2020.

Atlantic Nickel, the 100% owner of Santa Rita, was acquired by Appian in 2018. The Company is undergoing significant work prior to commercial production in 2020. Mining operations have resumed on site with over 2Mt safely blasted and hauled to date. Post refurbishment, commissioning began earlier this year with the successful testing of the primary crusher with 20kt of ore from stockpiles. The plant is now producing concentrate. A large 30,785m program of infill RC, diamond drilling of the Mineral Resource amenable to open pit mining methods was completed earlier this year de-risking over half of the expected initial mine life of 8 years, informing the medium range resource model. A large program of diamond drilling commenced in August 2018, is now complete delineating significant underground resource potential below the open pit. Following the drilling, an updated reserve statement is expected to be completed in Q1 2020.

Atlantic Nickel holds a high-quality, scalable sulphide nickel deposit that presents significant upside and supports a defensive cost position within the second quartile of the cost curve. Leveraging a well-planned and executed care and maintenance programme and a first-class processing plant, a safe and fast ramp-up to operations is expected. The project is fully permitted with a revised and balanced sales book from strategic offtakers supporting production for mid-2020. With the new resource model and further underground resource potential, operations could be delivering concentrate into a well-established route to market for over 20 years. It is also one of a very limited number of nickel sulphide mines globally gaining exposure to attractive commodity fundamentals, the high-growth potential of the electric vehicle industry.


Mineral Resource (Open Pit):

  • 30,785m RC infill drilling program using direct assaying for nickel sulphide (NiS) was completed to upgrade the open pit Resource block model, a new strategy compared with past operations
  • Updated Mineral Resource (open pit) (at US$8.78/t net smelter return (NSR) cut off)[1]
    • Measured, Indicated: 59,173k tonnes at 0.33% NiS, 0.11% Cu
    • A Whittle derived constraining resource shell based on Measured, Indicated tonnages, US$6.50/lb Ni, US$3.00/lb Cu, updated costs/marketing parameters has been used to declare the Mineral Resource.
    • Mineral Resources were estimated and declared using definitions under the 2014 CIM Definition Standards. Wood PLC are the QP’s and are authoring the related sections for the NI 43-101 Technical Report
  • 1,958m of diamond drilling was completed in the open pit resource area to provide additional samples for metallurgical variability testing. Geometallurgical modelling work is in progress with Wood PLC
  • The updated Mineral Resource model, geotechnical data will inform an updated mine plan supporting mining of the open pit in 2020

Underground Resource Drilling:

  • 75,500m program of diamond drilling completed. This includes 5,000m of drilling for metallurgical sample collection
  • The diamond drilling program is aimed at infill drilling, extension of the underground resource potential below the open pit up to 1,000m RL
  • The drilling to date confirms the continuation of significant thicknesses of disseminated sulphide mineralisation amenable to bulk mining methods
  • So far every hole has intercepted significant intervals of nickel sulphide mineralisation. Highlights to date include:
    • 179 m@ 0.68% NiS, 0.11% Cu from 384m in MBS-665
    • 124 m@ 0.80% NiS, 0.09% Cu from 397m in MBS-686
    • 209 m@ 0.74% NiS, 0.20% Cu from 436m in MBS-931
    • 191 m@ 0.79% NiS, 0.11% Cu from 321m in MBS-821
    • 96 m@ 0.93% NiS, 0.15% Cu from 616m in MBS-865
    • 134 m@ 0.62% NiS, 0.07% Cu from 145m in MBS-870
  • Several of the deep diamond drill holes have now intercepted intervals of massive, semi- massive sulphide mineralisation, typically below the main disseminated sulphide horizon, within the dunite, which represents a change to the previous geological model.
    • Results received from the massive, semi-massive sulphides to date returned 5m @ 3.4% NiS from 1,164m from hole MBS-1061 (Fig 2)
  • The underground drilling program is complemented by three dedicated geotechnical holes
  • The diamond drilling program will form the basis for an updated Mineral Resource estimate, a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for a sub-level caving underground project. Drilling to date has confirmed the internal scoping level assessment from 2018
  • Atlantic Nickel expects to delineate a significant resource below the current open pit Mineral Resource representing a potential underground mining opportunity. The estimated range of tonnes, grade of the deeper exploration target are:
    • 80-120 Mt at 0.58-0.70% NiS, 0.20-0.23% Cu at a US$40/t NSR cut-off estimated within current interim block models
    • The estimated exploration target material occurs immediately below the base case open pit (see Figure 1 below). The target is supported by a geological model, significant drill sampling and is an extension of the block model containing the Mineral Resource estimate

[1] Pending final geotechnical analysis

Drilling results

Mineral Resource (Open Pit):

The resource model was updated using the 30,785m RC infill drill program. The RC infill drilling targeted the first four years of production. The updated Resource model will provide the basis for a new mine plan and a geo-metallurgical model for the re-start of production in 2020.

The detailed program confirmed the nickel sulphide mineralisation, grade, provides greatly improved resolution (at 10-20m x 20m drill spacing) of grades and geological units for medium range mine planning. The increased the percentage of Measured, Indicated Mineral Resources in the constraining pit shell, will enable better operational planning and form a basis for improved grade control as well as ore-typing for optimised plant feed blending.

Underground Resource Drilling:

The large underground diamond drilling program is nearing completion and at its peak utilised twelve diamond drill rigs. All core was logged, sampled and stored at Atlantic Nickel’s core storage facility. The program was designed to upgrade the known extent of the Mineral Resource and improve the resource confidence. The drilling targeted the wider, better grade zones of the orebody that were evident in the historical drilling data.

The results to date have confirmed the higher grade, wider nature of the deeper mineralisation below the open pit. The mineralisation remains open at depth and along strike. These extensions will be tested with step-out holes in the near future.

The logging confirms the continuity at depth of wide zones of disseminated sulphide mineralisation, largely hosted in pyroxenite, harzburgite, and dunite layers. Encouraging intervals of semi-massive to massive sulphide mineralisation have now been intercepted in several of the deeper diamond holes. This semi-massive to massive mineralisation lies below the main disseminated ore body, is mostly hosted in dunite. This includes high-grade nickel intercepts related to massive, semi-massive pyrrhotite, pentlandite, chalcopyrite from hole MBS-1061, returned 5m @ 3.4% NiS, 0.17% Cu. These results highlighting higher tenors of semi-massive sulphide are in-line with the classical geology model vectoring towards the base of the ultramafic intrusion.

The results to date demonstrate that the Resource is continuous at depths, will inform an updated economic assessment in due course.

On completion of the resource drilling, a geophysical crew will be mobilised to complete down hole EM (Electro-magnetic) measurements on a number of the deep drill holes. This survey is designed to detect electrical conductors in the vicinity of the holes, is expected to guide the next round of extension drilling towards potentially more sulphide rich, higher grade mineralisation.

Quality assurance

The Mineral Resource estimate was carried out by Wood qualified persons Timothy O. Kuhl Douglas Reid, Dr Harry Parker, and MTS qualified person Dr. Ted Eggleston. The individuals have been involved with Atlantic Nickel for 18 months. Database completion, quality assurance/quality control, sampling protocols were reviewed, signed off in conjunction with Mineral Resource estimation workflows. The work was supervised by Angelica Torres, Appian Brasil, Ken Brisebois Appian London. Mineral Resources were estimated and declared using definitions under the 2014 CIM Definition Standards. Wood and MTS act as the QP and have authored the related sections for the NI 43-101 Technical Report.

Over the duration of the work programs, sample preparation, analyses were performed by ALS Chemex, an accredited independent laboratory.  Sample preparation was accomplished by ALS Chemex in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Sample analysis have been accomplished by ALS Chemex laboratories in Vancouver, Canada, Perth, Australia, Lima, Peru.

Sample preparation, analytical procedures for samples that support Mineral Resource estimation are in line with industry standard methods for nickel, copper.

Paulo Castellari, CEO of Atlantic Nickel, Appian Brazil commented:

“I am delighted by these robust drill results, the updated Mineral Resource (open pit), promoting a well-managed restart of open pit mining operations in 2020. The results from the deep diamond drilling below the open pit Mineral Resource support Atlantic Nickel’s potential towards a long-life operation beyond the open pit. I am also excited about the exploration potential both on the mining lease, on our extensive exploration land package around the operation. There are significant surface targets our teams will be investigating, drill testing over the coming 12 to 18 months. The addition of an open pit satellite resource could prove very valuable to the operation.

Since acquisition, Appian has materially de-risked the mine, the open pit provides a promising platform for development. I am confident that we are well positioned with a low-cost, long-life mine, set to benefit from existing infrastructure, positive trends in the nickel market. These fundamentals underline Atlantic Nickel’s ability to generate strong investor returns, I look forward to providing further updates.”

Figure 1: Example section at 8430455N. View to the north.
Figure 2: Photos of massive, semi-massive nickel sulphides from a 5m interval commencing at 1,069m in hole MBS-1061. 3D rendering shows underground diamond holes, NiS assays received to date. The pink volume is the mineralisation wireframe, the blue shape is the planned final open pit shell. Intercept values shown on the image are preliminary, based on averaging spot analysis with a hand-held XRF along the length of the core. Laboratory analysis including values for sulphide nickel are pending.

For further information:
Finsbury  +44 (0)20 7251 3801
Charles O’Brien, Ruban Yogarajah, Richard Crowley

About Appian Capital Advisory LLP

Appian Capital Advisory LLP is the investment advisor to the Appian Natural Resources Fund LP, the Appian Natural Resources Fund II LP, long-term value focused private equity funds that invest solely in mining or mining related companies. Appian is a leading investment advisor in the metals, mining industry, with worldwide experience across South America, North America, Australia, Africa, a track record of successfully supporting companies to achieve their development targets. Five of the Fund’s eight investments are currently in production, with a further two expected to be on-line in 18 months.

About Atlantic Nickel

Atlantic Nickel is the owner, operator of Santa Rita, an open-pit nickel-copper-cobalt sulphide operation located in Bahia, Brazil. Santa Rita is a fully permitted, restart ready, past-producing nickel mine benefitting from US$1bn of prior investment, has an estimated production capacity of 6.5Mtpa. One of the largest open pit nickel sulphide mines in the world, Santa Rita was operated by Mirabela Nickel Ltd. for 6 years prior to being placed on care and maintenance in 2015.

Appian, Atlantic Nickel have identified a 20+ year mine restart project, consisting of open pit reserves, an underground exploration target. Restart of the operation is underway. Key recent milestones on site include the completion of plant refurbishment activities and the commencement of blasting. Offtake partners have been identified; commercial production is expected in 2020.

This press release contains “forward-looking information”. Such forward-looking statements include, without limitation: statements with respect to Mineral Reserves and Mineral Resource estimates (including proposals for the potential growth, extension and/or upgrade thereof and any future economic benefits which may be derived therefrom) and expansion and development plans including with respect to certain maiden Mineral Resource Estimates, proposed exploration plans, and sufficiency of future funding. These statements are based on information currently available to the Company and the Company provides no assurance that actual results will meet management’s expectations. In certain cases, forward-looking information may be identified by such terms as “anticipates”, “believes”, “could”, “estimates”, “expects”, “may”, “shall”, “will”, or “would”. Forward-looking information contained in this news release is based on certain factors and assumptions regarding, among other things, the estimation of Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves, the realization of resource estimates and reserve estimates, metal prices, the timing and amount of future exploration and development expenditures, the availability of necessary financing and materials to continue to explore and develop Santa Rita in the short and long-term, the progress of exploration and development activities as currently proposed and anticipated, the receipt of necessary regulatory approvals and permits, and assumptions with respect to currency fluctuations, environmental risks, title disputes or claims, and other similar matters. While the Company considers these assumptions to be reasonable based on information currently available to it, they may prove to be incorrect.

Although the Company believes the expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in forward-looking statements include: changes in market conditions, unsuccessful exploration results, possibility of project cost overruns or unanticipated costs and expenses, changes in the costs and timing of the development of new deposits, inaccurate mineral reserve and resource estimates, changes in the price of gold, unanticipated changes in key management personnel, failure to obtain permits as anticipated or at all, failure of exploration and/or development activities to progress as currently anticipated or at all, and general economic conditions. Mining exploration and development is an inherently risky business. Accordingly, actual events may differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. This list is not exhaustive of the factors that may affect any of the Company’s forward-looking statements. These and other factors should be considered carefully, and readers should not place undue reliance on the Company’s forward-looking statements. The Company does not undertake to update any forward-looking statement that may be made from time to time by the Company or on its behalf, except in accordance with applicable securities laws.

Appendix – Atlantic Nickel Mineral Resource Tabulation (Open Pit Only)

Class kt NiS (%) Cu (%) Co (%)
Measured 13,167 0.38 0.13 0.01
Indicated 46,006 0.31 0.11 0.01
Meas + Ind 59,173 0.33 0.11 0.01
Inferred 45 0.25 0.10 0.01
  1. The Qualified Persons for the Mineral Resource estimate are Timothy O. Kuhl, RM SME (Wood), Douglas Reid RM SME (Wood), Dr. Harry Parker, RM SME (Wood), Dr Ted Eggleston RM SME (MTS).
  2. Mineral Resources that are not Mineral Reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.
  3. Metal prices used for the Mineral Resource estimate are: US$6.50/lb nickel, US$3.00/lb copper, US$20.00/lb cobalt.
  4. A Net Smelter Return (NSR) cut-off of US$8.78/tonne was used for the Mineral Resource estimate.
  5. Mineral Resources are reported within a resource shell.

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