In 2018 Leading Edge Materials launched a joint venture with a local Romanian partner to explore for high-grade nickel and cobalt mineralizations in a historic mining area. Our initial ownership of the project is 51% but can move to 90% upon the filing of positive Feasibility Study technical report on the project.
In 2022 an exclusive exploration license was granted covering a 25 square kilometer area in the Northern Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. The Apuseni Mountains are located in the northern extension of the Western Tethyan Metallogenic Belt, one of the world’s more prominent orogenic belts that hosts numerous significant past producing mines and newly discovered mineral deposits. The exploration license was applied for with the goal to expand on indications of high-grade cobalt, nickel and polymetallic mineralization collected in the framework of earlier prospecting work covering the same area. The project has excellent potential to enable a more secure and sustainable supply of these key battery raw materials from within the European Union.
Located approximately 90 km south-east from Oradea which is the administrative capital of Bihor County, the project lies within the Upper Cretaceous and Neogene Carpathian magmatic arcs which extend from Turkey to Hungary and are host to several well-known mines and mineral deposits such as the Timok-Bor-Majdanpek copper-gold zone, Skouries and Chelopec. The Northern Apuseni Mountains have documented high grade skarn and carbonate replacement mineral deposits and historic production of Cu, Mo, Ag, Au, Zn, U and Pb associated with Tethyan Arc intrusions. Within the License area, there is a significant amount of historical mine works including a substantial former underground uranium mine which stopped production in the 1990s. Approximately 15 km northwest from the License, The Company’s local joint-venture partner operates a high-quality dolomite mine, the Baita Skarn Mine, which has historic mining of Cu, Mo, Bi, Au, Ag, Zn, Pb and W. The UK company Vast Resources recommenced mining operations at its polymetallic Baita Plai mine in 2020 which is located approximately 9 km northwest from the License.
Under the prospecting work, staff and consultants compiled historic data, sampled historic mine waste dumps, completed preliminary ground geophysics and soil sampling. The success of the prospecting work greatly benefited from using the services of Radioactive Mineral Magurele SA, a state owned company under the Ministry of Energy, which has decades of experience and expertise for exploration activities locally and has all necessary permits to perform those according to the highest technical and safety standards. Historic mining tapped Co-Ni mineralization deposited at the top of a regional carbonate level and overlying dark schist in the form of replacement bodies and dissemination. Within a 5 x 2 km zone, grab samples were taken from 7 waste dumps near gallery mouths, mostly disseminated mineralization in dark schist and carbonate. Both, cobalt and nickel grades in these rocks, are often in the percent-range, increasing strongly as stringers occur (see images), which locally lead to massive Co-Ni-ore pockets.
As part of the exploration license , a detailed exploration work program has been proposed with planned activities over 5 years and associated budgets. A detailed plan for each year needs to be submitted for approval, with the first annual work program being mandatory and subsequent yearly plans proposed based on results from exploration work during previous years. Leading Edge Materials is funding all work according to the JV Agreement.
The submitted work program for the first year covers;
- Geological surface and underground mapping;
- Geophysical surveys;
- Geochemical surface trenching, channel and soil sampling;
- Surface and/or underground drilling;
- Historic drill hole surveying;
- Assaying and mineralogical analysis;
- Reviewing historical documentation which becomes available pursuant to having been granted the License;
- Technical planning for re-opening of historical mining galleries; and
- Land, environmental and other local permits required to commence exploration work.
We are extremely pleased to finally having been granted the exploration license for the Bihor Sud project. When we started looking at the Project back in 2018 there was real excitement around what new discoveries this well-mineralized historic mining area could offer. Surging demand from the battery industry for high-energy density battery metals such as nickel and cobalt, combined with increasing geopolitical risks, have pushed prices higher for both metals over the last year. European battery production capacity is starting to come into production and there is an urgent need to develop more secure and sustainable raw material supply alternatives within the region. Romania’s geological potential is well-understood in the industry, and the positive support we have experienced from national and local authorities throughout the permitting process has been very encouraging. We look forward to immediately commence on an already planned detailed exploration program together with our experienced local JV partner, and hope to demonstrate what potential this opportunity can offer for all stakeholders and shareholders.