Blackstone Minerals' projects in Son La are one of Australia's largest private investments in Vietnam. This investment also contributes to the realization of commitments in the Strategy to strengthen Vietnam-Australia economic cooperation announced by the Prime Ministers of the two countries at COP26. With respect to this topic, Ms. Tessa Kutscher, Member of the Executive Board, in charge of people and culture, shared with the Vietnam Business Forum reporter.
Currently, Blackstone Minerals is investing in two major projects in Son La province including a Nickel Exploration and Mining project in Ban Phuc area and a Nickel Refinery project, with the expected output of NCM 811 precursor for Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Could you please share something about these two projects? Why did Blackstone Minerals decide to invest these projects in Son La?
Blackstone Minerals Ltd is focused on building an integrated battery metals processing business in Son La Province that produces NCM precursor products for Asia’s growing lithium-ion battery industry.
The existing business has a modern nickel mine in Ban Phuc Area, built to Australian standards, which successfully operated as a mechanised underground nickel mine from 2013 to 2016. This will be complemented by a larger concentrator, and a refinery and precursor facility to support integrated production in Son La Province. The reason for the decision to invest into these projects in Son La Province is based on Ta Khoa being an emerging nickel sulfide district with several exploration targets yet to be tested as well as the nearby abundant renewable energy sources, namely Hoa Binh hydro-electric power plant enabling the production of the lowest emission precursor as verified by Minviro and the Nickel Institute (according to the summary announcement on 15 September 2022 at weblink.com.au).
In order for the projects to come into operation effectively, what has Blackstone Minerals prepared and/or invested in terms of financial resources and people?
The company’s investment supports the realization of commitments to strengthen the bilateral economic cooperation announced at COP26.
Ongoing contributions include but are not limited to Economic contributions through taxes, salaries and royalties; Training and education of local workforce; Future employment opportunities; Building suppliers and businesses in the commune, province and on a national level; Bringing new technology to Vietnam’s mining industry, including advanced hydrometallurgy to support the projects; Supporting best practice environmental management including rehabilitation, responsible water, and waste management; Developing the project in a Province that is classified “Impoverished” which means that impact from the project on the Commune, District and Provincial level will be significant.
In Son La Province, our contribution in the Financial Year 2022 was US$3,477,175 spent on food, equipment, electricity, tools, office equipment; US$1,765,924 spent on permanent and contract employees; 99% site-based roles filled by Vietnamese nationals.
Do you have any suggestions for the provincial government of Son La to further support this project?
The provincial government of Son La has shown considerable support in the form of monthly meetings and the formation of specific working groups to assist BSX through the process of dossier preparation for permit applications. BSX is grateful for this assistance and appreciates the continued support of the provincial government of Son La to successfully navigate the law and regulations to gain the necessary approvals for our projects in Vietnam.
Thank you very much!
Duy Binh (Vietnam Business Forum)