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Nickel Creek's massive Yukon deposit could help feed the battery metal boom

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The Nickel Shäw Project's drill site.

The Nickel Shäw Project's drill site.

By Jason Smith

  • The Green Revolution is spiking demand for an array of metals, including nickel, copper and the platinum group metals ("PGMs")

  • Nickel Creek Platinum's Nickel Shäw Project hosts one of the world's largest undeveloped nickel-copper sulphide and PGM deposits and ongoing exploration could make it larger

  • The deposit type makes it a more environmentally friendly source of battery quality nickel

The electrification of the economy is in full swing, as the global push to battle climate change intensifies.

The trend shows up in the booming demand for electric vehicles as well as for the energy storage solutions that help maximize the effectiveness of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. And the trend is creating exploding demand for the metals used in these applications.

From nickel to copper, cobalt to lithium, demand for battery metals is forecast to trend sharply higher in the 2020s. For starters, by 2025, the nickel market will need 750,000 tonnes of nickel per year to meet the EV growth of 20 million cars, and another 300-500,000 tonnes to meet normal growth (of 50 percent more nickel) by 2030.

The metal's price will also see a gradual uptrend, according to Fitch Solutions, who upgraded its "long-term nickel price outlook from $15,750 per tonne to $16,500 per tonne for 2021."

Elon Musk also addressed the EV sector's need for battery metals in an earnings call last year, saying, "I'd just like to re-emphasize, any mining companies out there, please mine more nickel… [we need] environmentally friendly nickel mining at high volume."

"Wellgreen is one of the top undeveloped deposits in the world based on its combination of nickel, copper, cobalt and PGMs." — Stuart Harshaw, President & CEO, Nickel Creek Platinum Corp.

A more environmentally friendly type of nickel deposit

As luck would have it, Nickel Creek Platinum's (TSX: NCP | OTCQB: NCPCF) Nickel Shäw (pronounced "Show") Project in the Yukon is well positioned to address Musk's concerns.

Nickel Shäw's Wellgreen nickel-copper-cobalt-platinum group metal ("PGM") deposit is massive, and as a sulphide deposit, it can be mined with a much smaller environmental footprint than the laterite nickel deposits found in Indonesia and the Philippines.

According to Stuart Harshaw, Nickel Creek's president and CEO, a laterite deposit has a carbon footprint that's "10 to 15 times greater than a sulphide deposit like Wellgreen."

Combined with a Yukon jurisdiction that holds the company to strong environmental, social and governance ("ESG") standards, this lower carbon footprint makes the deposit exactly the type of environmentally advantaged project in demand right now.

That's especially true considering that part of the tailings, or mining waste rock, that Wellgreen would generate will be made up of serpentine minerals, which Harshaw says can "absorb carbon dioxide and help the mine trend toward a zero-carbon footprint."

The Nickel Shäw Project's drill site.

The Nickel Shäw Project is located three hours west of Whitehorse via the paved Alaska Highway.

One of the world's largest undeveloped nickel copper sulphide and PGM deposits

And Wellgreen does indeed, contain a world-class hoard of battery metals and PGMs, with Measured and Indicated Resources of 1.8 billion pounds of nickel, 1.1 billion pounds of copper, 5.7 million ounces of PGMs and 107 million pounds of cobalt. Harshaw notes, "Wellgreen is one of the top undeveloped deposits in the world based on its combination of nickel, copper, cobalt and PGMs."

Because Wellgreen is a sulphide deposit, its nickel will have the most direct and environmentally friendly process path to become the type of high-grade, Class 1 nickel that battery makers demand.

As that PGM endowment indicates, Nickel Shäw is not solely a nickel play. Outside of the challenging jurisdictions of Russia and South Africa, this Yukon deposit hosts one of the few large caches of these metals, which are primarily used in the catalytic converters that lower emissions in internal combustion engine vehicles.

Advanced technical studies done on Wellgreen indicate it could produce saleable concentrates of nickel and copper, with substantial by-product payables, over more than a 25-year mine life. If long-term demand for the battery metals stays high, the potential mine's profitability would likely become even more robust.

Recent drill results underscore expansion potential

Big as Wellgreen is, Nickel Shäw sits along an 18 km trend capable of hosting even more nickel sulphide mineralization. An exploration campaign to test that potential just wrapped up and the first batch of results is in.

Those results include massive sulphide intervals from targets well outside of the Wellgreen deposit. Five of the six holes on the Arch 1 drill pad graded between 1.22 per cent to 3.85 per cent nickel and between 0.92 per cent and 2.77 per cent copper over 1.0 m to 4.3 m intervals.

Those metal grades are higher than Wellgreen's resource averages, and they sit within wider intervals (12.4 m to 23.7 m) of lower, but mineable grades of nickel and copper.

The work, conducted with the help of local labour from the local Kluane First Nation, suggests that Nickel Creek can outline a near-surface starter area of higher-grade material that can help boost project economics. At Arch 1 alone, the mineralization appears to be ideal for open-pit mining.

The company's working relationship with the Kluane First Nation appears solid as Nickel Creek looks to move the project forward. Harshaw says, "We're the only project on Kluane land so it's a focus for them, and they see the work the project generates as a big plus."

The Nickel Shäw Project's drill site.

Nickel Shäw drill core.

A bet on the Green Revolution

Looking ahead, Harshaw sees Nickel Creek Platinum garnering more in favour with investors as demand for nickel continues to grow and the need for environmentally advantaged sources of it becomes more urgent. "Wellgreen is a deposit needed by the world — it's at a prefeasibility-ready state that we're ready to move rapidly toward completion," he notes.

With the exploration potential at Nickel Shäw providing upside for resource expansion, the project's vast resource of battery metals and PGMs would appear to set Nickel Creek Platinum up for success as the Green Revolution rolls on.

Nickel Creek value proposition summary

  • Updated Resource Estimate with M&I after infill drill program completed

  • Advanced metallurgy – mini pilot plant completed with saleable nickel and copper concentrates

  • Baseline environmental studies – water, wildlife, low carbon footprint

  • Internal mine planning and optimization studies completed

  • Exploring large district potential – ground-based EM geophysics completed

  • Strong institutional shareholders

  • 2021 exploration program completed on many of the EM targets with full results expected in Q4 2021

To learn more about Nickel Creek, visit their website here.

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