Global lithium company Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A., via its wholly-owned subsidiary SQM (SQM), will make a major cornerstone investment of up to A$20 million to acquire a 19.99% interest in Australia-based Azure Minerals Limited through a two-stage transaction.
Azure Minerals is developing the Andover nickel-copper-cobalt sulfide project in the West Pilbara region of Western Australia. The project covers most of the Andover Mafic-Ultramafic Intrusive Complex and exploration has successfully discovered several significant bodies of nickel (Ni), copper (Cu) and cobalt (Co) sulfide mineralization.
In March 2022, Azure announced the maiden Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) for the Andover Deposit. The MRE (JORC 2012) is 4.6Mt @ 1.11% Ni, 0.47% Cu and 0.05% Co (1.41% NiEq) for 51,700t of contained nickel, 21,700t of contained copper and 2,290t of contained cobalt at a cut-off grade of 0.5% Ni. A second MRE for the Ridgeline Deposit is due in Q1 2023.
Recently, Azure announced that it had identified abundant spodumene-rich, lithium-bearing pegmatites outcropping in an 8km-long, up to 4km-wide corridor within the Andover Project. Surface rock chip sampling confirmed high grades of lithium in outcropping pegmatites.
Azure has now embarked on an accelerated growth strategy to advance Andover’s multi-commodity opportunity. Lithium exploration will be fast-tracked with a maiden lithium-focused drilling program expected to commence in Q1 of 2023. Nickel exploration and mine development studies on the Andover and Ridgeline Deposits will also continue through 2023.
This strategic investment by SQM is a strong endorsement of the lithium potential of the Andover Project (60% Azure / 40% Creasy Group) and highlights the upside potential for Andover to grow into a globally significant lithium mining and processing operation, Azure said.
SQM is one of the world’s largest lithium producers. In Western Australia, SQM and Wesfarmers Limited are joint venture partners in the Mt. Holland lithium project, which will be a unique, fully-integrated operation producing battery-quality lithium hydroxide. The joint venture comprises a mine and concentrator at Mt Holland and a refinery at Kwinana capable of producing approximately 50,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year.
Azure intends to use the funds raised to accelerate lithium exploration on the Andover Project with a priority to undertake a substantial reverse circulation and diamond drilling program to determine the scale of the mineralization already mapped and sampled at surface. Early stage metallurgical, heritage, environmental, hydrological, and flora and fauna studies will also commence.