Black Canyon making moves with manganese

Emerging manganese explorer and developer Black Canyon (ASX:BCA) plans to maintain the momentum of 2023 heading into the new year with a number of work streams to be progressed.

On 12 December 2023, the company reported maiden Mineral Resource Estimates for its 100% owned Balfour East and Damsite deposits. Located within the Balfour Manganese Field, the MRE totals 40Mt @ 11.9% Mn (inferred) containing 4.7Mt of manganese with the combined global Balfour manganese field MRE now at 314Mt – the largest such contained deposit in Western Australia and second largest across Australia.

Reverse circulation (RC) drill results from the Balfour East and Damsite prospects completed in July 2023 have now been reviewed and validated for the MREs.

Speaking to Mining.com.au, Executive Director Brendan Cummins says following the maiden MRE, in 2024 Black Canyon will seek to finalise exploration targets across the Pickering and Balfor East prospects.

“At Pickering we have only drilled 2km of strike along a zone of mineralisation that we have mapped for about 10km. So, there is significant upside. At Wandanya we are planning a Heritage Survey prior to drilling this higher grade manganese target which we hope will demonstrate the grade profile of the prospect and provide an indication of scale.”

Next year, Black Canyon will continue to advance its flowsheet design for battery grade High Purity Manganese Sulphate Monohydrate (HPMSM), progress the base case HPMSM process development opportunity at an Australian site and further engage with customers seeking long term supplies of critical manganese compounds.

All of this is against a positive backdrop of Australian and overseas government agencies aggressively mandated to induce independent critical mineral and material supply chains for midstream and downstream processing.

Cummins notes starting economic studies to update the Scoping Study work completed at Flanagan Bore in 2022 is also on the agenda for 2024. He says this will examine scale of the operation, mining sequencing, and progress a better cost understanding and potential alternatives to transport and logistics from the mine site to port at Port Hedland.

“Advancing the HPMSM testwork is key for 2024. We have developed an experimental flowsheet based on 18 months of testwork and we can now apply those learnings to some larger scale testwork with material from the KR1 and KR2 prospects.

Subject to the successful conclusion of larger scale testwork we are looking forward to the design and potential construction of a pilot plant to demonstrate the robustness of the flowsheet and deliver samples for qualification purposes required by end users of the product.

We hope to work with into state and federal governments to access funding that is targeted at mid or downstream value addition to critical minerals such as manganese. We also plan to continue discussions with both end users of manganese concentrates and HPMSM to establish strategic partnerships or alliances which we also believe will not only add credibility but recognise value for shareholders.”

Upscaling and objectives

During the past year, discovering significant tonnes, grade, and contained manganese across the Balfour Manganese Field deposits was one of the company’s key objectives.

The Executive Director says that in addition, during 2023 Black Canyon set objectives to deliver battery grade HPMSM. The company reported at the time that hydrometallurgical testwork completed on manganese oxide samples from KR1 generated HPMSM meeting battery grade specification of >99% HPMSM purity and within specification impurities levels.

“We commenced these studies in late 2021 which continued in 2022 and being able to deliver the result was the culmination of a multiple rounds of testwork during which we were able to learn about the process and finally deliver the results. We will continue upscale this testwork in 2024 with a plan to commence pilot plant testwork in late 2024 subject to funding.”

The Executive Director adds that it was also important to Black Canyon to diversify its portfolio or development projects during the year. The company’s initial exploration success was at the Flanagan Bore which is 75% owned by Black Canyon, which the company discovered 171Mt of resource from 2 deposits.

Black Canyon further continued grassroots exploration for manganese that delivered a ‘significant discovery’ of higher-grade manganese at surface from the Wandanya prospect. This was released initially on 5 July and followed up on the 14 August with further confirmatory results on the 14 November.

Cummins notes: “The plus 50% manganese rock chip samples were the highest we have ever encountered across the project areas and will be subject to further exploration in 2024. What is exciting about the discovery is not only the grade but it is potentially similar in mineralisation style to that of Woodie Woodie which are typically structurally controlled smaller but high grade manganese resources.”

As reported on 12 December, Black Canyon is confident that the acquisition of strategic tenements across the ‘prospective’ BMF would increase the company’s mineral inventory and importantly, provide options to examine a number of long-life development scenarios.

In August 2022, Black Canyon completed a Scoping Study examining the economic viability of mining 2 deposits discovered at Flanagan Bore. The study was based on 100Mt of indicated mineral resource, which Cummins says demonstrates a positive NPV and high IRR.

“Which is why we have the largest contained manganese deposits in Western Australia and second in Australia

“This was based on mining over a 20-year period at a rate of 1.8Mtpa a total of 36Mt production targets. The company now controls 314Mt of mineral resource so there is an opportunity to re-examine the mining rate and from which deposits we mine initially or in parallel. The company will refresh the Scoping Study parameters in early 2024 during which we will examine a potentially higher mining rate which may also deliver some OPEX savings with an increased capex.”

Cummins adds that offtake and end users of manganese products have a preference to deal with companies that have long life mining assets, which is why Black Canyon pushed hard to increase its contained manganese content.

“Which is why we have the largest contained manganese deposits in Western Australia and second in Australia.”

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Black Canyon
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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.