Highlands Pacific reports encouraging nickel laterite assay results from a reconnaissance exploration program on its Sewa Bay tenements on Normanby Island at the southeast tip of Papua New Guinea.

Sewa Bay is about 400km from Port Moresby, 650km from Ramu’s Basamuk Process Plant at Madang and 1000km from Townsville, Australia. The nickel laterites encountered at Sewa Bay have similarities to other ocean arc nickel deposits such as Kurumbakari (Ramu project) in PNG and other nickel projects in Philippines, Indonesia and New Caledonia.

At the Sewa Bay exploration licence Highlands Pacific undertook a low-cost exploration program of 20 widely spaced hand auger holes drilled to refusal. Each hole was sampled on one metre intervals for a total of 41 samples. Holes drilled ranged between 0.6 to 3.0 metres in depth, with an average of 2.1 metres per drill hole.

Most of the soil samples showed elevated nickel grades indicative of laterite soils developed over ultramafic rocks with higher grades of greater than 0.6% nickel restricted to the south-eastern block. This is consistent with observations by previous field workers who had reported the occurrence of nickel laterite soils.

The reported grades are similar to those seen in the limonite portion of the Kurumbukari deposit that the Ramu project is mining. While these results are very preliminary they do indicate nickel‐cobalt laterite mineralization in the area at grades and thickness sufficient to warrant follow-up exploration.

The presence of previously reported magnesite occurrences was also confirmed. Further work will need to be carried out to assess the extent and tenure of these occurrences. Magnesite is a potential reagent in the treatment of laterite ores, where Ramu uses sodium hydroxide which it has to purchase from third parties.

Highlands Pacific managing director John Gooding says, “This was a low-cost exploration program that has unearthed some encouraging results. We will sit back now and evaluate how to take this forward.

“Clearly we have an interest in the Ramu Nickel Project and the plant there is built and operating. However, the Kurumbukari deposit is somewhat landlocked and specific for Ramu, whilst Sewa Bay’s proximity to the sea could make for an export or shipping opportunity. The first step though is to further evaluate the options for advancing exploration which could potentially be with a partner.”

Highlands Pacific is a PNG incorporated and registered mining and exploration company listed on the ASX and PoMSoX exchanges. Its major development assets are interests in the US$1.5 billion Ramu Nickel Cobalt Project and the Frieda Copper Gold Project; with exploration in progress on the Star Mountains (Nong River, Mt Scorpion, Munbil and Tifalmin) licences about 20km north of the Ok Tedi mine. Highlands also has exploration tenements in the Wau/Bulolo area, close to the new Hidden Valley and Wafi gold projects, and Sewa Bay.