The Blair Dome Nickel Project covers an area of 29 km² and is located 35 km south east of Kalgoorlie WA, or 40 km by road north of the Kambalda nickel processing facility.
The Blair Mine closed in 2008, at a time of depressed nickel prices, having produced 1.26mt of nickel ore at 2.62% Ni.
The Blair Mine has a Mineral Resource estimate of: 222,710t of nickel sulphide ore with a grade of 2.92% Ni, as summarised by category in the table below:
|Class||Tonnes (t)||Ni (%)||Ni Metal (t)|
|Note: Appropriate rounding applied|
An Ultramafic Dome is proposed for the Blair Project, with over 12 km of demonstrably prospective basal ultramafic contact outside the immediate Blair Nickel Mine Deposit. Subsidiary domes are also evident, adding another 5 km of ultramafic contact. This strongly enhances the exploration potential of the Project.
Nine prospects can now be placed into a consistent geological context. Of these, Marshall, Anomaly 14 and Blair South have nickel sulphide intersections recorded in drilling. Mick’s Hill and Skidman have previously been un-rated for nickel.
The Blair Dome is analogous, both geologically and in size, with other ultramafic domes at Kambalda, Tramways and Widgiemooltha, which are all major nickel sulphide mining centres.
Existing geochemistry and drilling data is proving to be an excellent foundation for future work programs to expand upon.
The Blair Dome Model
Pioneer has proposed that the Blair Nickel Mine occurs at the southern end of a geological dome. Mineralisation, anomalies and targets are evident along the semi-oval surface expression of the basal ultramafic contact, which has a strike length of 12 km within Pioneer’s tenure.
The Blair Dome, when compared to the nearby nickel camps at Kambalda, Tramways and Widgiemooltha, has not been exhaustively explored. The Project has a reasonably comprehensive database of soil geochemistry, EM geophysics and regolith drilling, providing an excellent basis for target generation, however the deeper drilling, needed to discover nickel mineralisation, has often not been undertaken. The Company is compiling targets for future work, with priority given to locations with existing intersections of nickel sulphides, within 1 km of the Blair Mine decline.
Pioneer’s consultant geologist has recently provided recommendations for the next round of drill holes. If drilling is successful, the development timeline for a mine accessed from the existing infrastructure will be much shorter, and the set-up costs substantially reduced, enabling the Company to react quickly to an improved nickel market.
Revealing the Potential of the Blair Dome
The Blair Dome, when compared to the nearby nickel camps at Kambalda, Tramways and Widgiemooltha, has not been exhaustively explored. The Project has varying degrees of soil geochemistry coverage, and a number anomalies have reconnaissance-style drill results, which provide an excellent base-line data set. Prospects are further ranked according to drilling that has intersected nickel sulphides, or positive litho-geochemistry.
The Blair Dome geological model successfully brings 9 prospects plus the Blair Nickel Mine into a single, consistent geological model. Pioneer’s approach involved studying the Blair Mine in detail, and then applying observations to the greater Project area, using detailed aeromagnetic data, a gravity survey, and a litho-geochemical study of existing drill hole data. Mapping and drilling Information from 54 aircore and 6 RC drill holes drilled earlier this year also provided key information.
Soil geochemistry adds further support for the Blair Dome concept, with anomalies evident along the interpreted basal ultramafic contact. Areas such as Mick’s Hill, Marshall, Leo’s Dam and some as yet unnamed prospects are highlighted as priority areas for drilling.
When comparisons are made with the other similar sized nickel sulphide-bearing ultramafic domes near Kambalda, it is evident that the absence of multiple significant nickel deposits could be attributed to a lack of deeper exploration work, and this is where an opportunity for exploration success exists.
The Kambalda District nickel sulphide mines, including Blair, typically produce medium-high tenor nickel grade ore. The Blair Mine grade of all recorded production is approximately 2.6% Ni, which compares with other deposits, but individual grades exceeding 15% Ni evidence the presence of high tenor sulphides as well.
Blair Nickel Mine - Background
The Blair Nickel Mine was a 1960s Nickel Boom discovery. WMC began production in 1990 and the mine operated, with periodic halts, until December 2008 when it closed due to the prevailing low nickel price. Total mine production is recorded as 32,900t of contained nickel, which was treated at Kambalda.
A Mineral Resource estimate of 222,710t of nickel sulphide ore with a grade of 2.92% Ni, remains drilled out within the Blair Mine. (see announcement)
This Mineral Resource provides an excellent basis from which to grow, and current work includes identifying adjacent but outlying nickel mineralisation to generate a series of conceptual and empirical targets that have the capacity to increase the mineral resource to 20,000t of contained nickel.
The Company is aware that a number of commodity forecasters are predicting an improvement to the nickel price within the next few years, and this quarter has seen a substantial rise in the nickel price, from approximately US $6.00/lb to US $8.45/lb.
The iterative data review for the Blair Dome is continuing, looking at the coverage of geochemistry, the age and effectiveness of EM surveys and the results of drill holes. Follow-up work will include:
- RC and diamond drilling at Marshall, N10, Leo’s Dam and higher ranking anomalies, which will also act as a platform for down-hole EM surveys;
- Surface and down-hole EM surveys, targeting prospective areas highlighted by the Blair Dome model in areas where nickel sulphides have been intersected in drilling;
- Aircore drilling at areas covered by alluvium to infill geological knowledge.